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Posted on Dec 3, 2015 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

No Retreat! Italian Front: 1943–45 – Board Game Review

No Retreat! Italian Front: 1943–45 – Board Game Review

By Rick Martin

No Retreat! Italian Front: 1943 – 45  Game Review.  Publisher: GMT Games Designer: Carl Paradis Price  $65.00

Passed Inspection: Exciting and compelling game play. Tons of replay value. Great components and a rule book with examples and an index.

Failed Basic: Lots of “fiddly” rule exceptions. Some of the rules are too spread making it difficult to learn.

Carl Paradis’ No Retreat series of games is rapidly becoming the end all, be all of detailed World War II strategy games.  The first game in the series was No Retreat! The Russian Front and focused on Army sized formations, the second was No Retreat! The North African Front (http://www.armchairgeneral.com/no-retreat-north-african-front-boardgame-review.htm) and focused on Division sized formations for the North African portion and Battalion sized formations for the invasion of Crete campaigns.  The third game to be released in the series is No Retreat! Italian Front: 1943 – 45 and focuses on Division sized formations.

No Retreat! Italian Front focuses on the Allied invasion of the “soft underbelly of Europe” as Winston Churchill referred to Italy. The Allies would soon find out how wrong Churchill was.  Not only did the Italian army defend their homeland (although, truth be told, most of the Italian forces were not morally aligned with the ruling fascist party under Mussolini) but also the German army was well prepared to save their ally.  The overall German commander was the extremely professional and competent “Smiling” Albert Kesselring as well as the Desert Fox himself, Erwin Rommel. The Allies were represented by Alexander, Clark, Montgomery and Patton.  Patton and Montgomery didn’t get along too well, to put it mildly and the two began to compete for glory. All the while, the Germans fought a brilliant holding campaign as their forces retreated North and the Italians overthrew their fascist government.

The game is packaged in a sturdy box with wonderful artwork.  The box includes both a rule book and a scenario book, aid mats, three sturdy mounted maps representing portions of Italy, event and leader cards, double sided full color counters, two six sided die and zip lock bags to store your goodies in.

With No Retreat! Italian Front as with No Retreat! The North African Front, Paradis has chosen to go with a multi-sectional mounted map instead of one large map as in No Retreat! The Russian Front. This offers a great deal of detail to be included in the maps but unless you want all the maps laid out at one time, you can keep the “footprint” of the game manageable by only using one map at a time while having a small version of all the maps to make what areas are owned by what player.

The counters include unit counters as well as status counters and counters representing fascist Italian forces and fortresses plus German improved positions. Most unit counters have a reduced version of them on the rear of the counter.  Some of the counters represent untested units and the players won’t know what the units’ strengths are until an enemy unit engages them.

Each turn represents one month and each hex on the maps represents 10 miles. On the Victory Point and Turn Track aid mat, each turn is rated for weather (sunny, mud, rain) as well as for certain historical events happening such as the D Day invasion or the Battle of the Bulge. Plus on some turns, if one side has a specific number of victory points, the game may automatically end with defeat for the other side called “Sudden Death”.

In addition, the Italians must track their over all moral and if they suffer too many defeats, they will have to change their government and oust Mussolini in order to form a new, pro-Allied government.

An overview of the sequence of play is:

  • A) Events occur as well as checking for “Sudden Death”, moral issues, armistice or “flip flops”.  The “Flip Flop” event is interesting as it forces the players to switch sides therefore giving both players the chance to be on the offensive instead of a holding defense action.
  • B) Operational Preparations – drawing and discarding event cards from their hands, planning combat operations, improving or repairing/rebuilding damaged units, arrival of reinforcements, deploying new units, checking supply lines, etc.
  • C) Player Turns – unit supply, moving, fighting, etc.
  • D) Final supply checks, continuing of major offensives if applicable, computing victory points

Only a specific number of combats can occur in each month long term unless the players declare a major offensive. If the prerequisites to declare a major offensive are met, then up to four weeks of moves and combats can occur in each month.  This represents an increased pace in combat during specific key operations.

Each unit is rated for their movement rate, combat power and other various factors such as how fragile the unit is when defending, how powerful their armor is, etc.

Some Allied units are capable of air drop operations while others use sea invasion to enter the game.  The Allied player can pick where to invade as well as try and plan counter-intelligence operations to keep the Axis off guard.

When combat occurs a variety of factors can influence the fight including air power, terrain, leadership abilities, the supply states of the units involved and many other factors.  Some times there are too many rules to keep track of.  Some of the rules are spread out between the rule book and the scenario book.  Even with a very nice, complete index this does add to tons of page flipping and many possibilities of mistakes.  These “fiddly” rules may be accurate but they sometimes distract from smooth game play.

Combat results include the standard “unit destroyed” or “unit looses a step of strength” or “unit retreats” but also includes the innovative No Retreat rules of “counter blows” and modifications owing to “shock” or “blitz” abilities of the units.

“Counter blows” dictate that a defensive unit must go on the offensive against an attacker and therefore loses its defensive terrain bonuses.

Both the Allied and the Axis player have many strategic and tactical options available to them and the standard strategic feel is given much more randomness by the ability to play event cards on your own forces and against the other player.  Events include things like strategic and tactical air power, counter-intelligence, indecision, political upheavals, etc. Some events can be negated by a well played card by the other side.  This adds to the test of wills between the players and makes for a very innovative game system.

The game play, both played against other humans and as a solitaire game is dynamic and addictive with a low counter population that makes the game fast and manageable.

The unit mix is very interesting with a very wide range of available units including Japanese American, Jewish and Italian anti-fascist forces.

I have only a few complaints with the game and these mostly fall in to the real of player ergo dynamics.

The Turn sequence needs to be on a separate handout not on the back of the Organization charts for the Allied and Axis Forces. It is difficult to lay out unit counters on the sheets if you have to flip them over.

Also why don’t cities give the defender a bonus to defend when villages and town do?

None-the-less, quite simply, this is a great game and one of the best releases of 2015.  Bring on the next No Retreat game which has been announced No Retreat! The French and Polish Fronts!

 

Armchair General Rating:  94 %

Solitaire Rating: 4

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

5 Comments

  1. Good question about the Cities not having a defensive bonus. Do rememebr that Ports get a Bonus, so if the City is also a Port, it get the Defensive Column Shift (ex: Naples).

    For the large “Mainland” cities, I did not give them a defense bonus as historically no serious combat ever took place in these, the Germans mostly retreating out without a fight for political reasons (especially after Cassino) and also tactical: They did not had that many troops in the theater, and huge cityfights were great “man-eaters”, as they had recently found out in Stalingrad. So in the game I did not want to encourage players into non-historical behaviors.

    Carl Paradis

  2. A question that I feel silly asking… You give a solitaire rating of 4. Is this four out of a possible five or ten or 100 (i.e., 4/5 or 4/10 or 4/100)? S bit of clarification here would be welcome. Thank you for the thorough review.

    • 4 out of 10, mainly because of the Event Cards that are hidden for your opponent. Mind you I play solitaire a lot and it does not bother me much, but it’s more fun with a real opponent, of course.

      • Oops sorry, I am the designer of the game, so this was my educated guess about what the rating is. But it might well be 4/5.

      • Reading the White Ensign review it looks like it’s 4/5 – so better than you expected Carl!

        Excited to pick up the game and give it a try

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