AVALANCHE is a tactical (company-level) simulation of the bitter, nine-day, seesaw battle between invading American and British troops and the defending Wehrmacht for possession of the beaches at Salerno, Italy, in 1943. AVALANCHE was designed by Frank Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1976.


At 03:30 hours on 9 September, General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army began to land American and British forces on the beaches at Salerno, an Italian coastal town only a little more than twenty miles from Naples. This was the beginning of Operation “Avalanche,” an Allied amphibious assault aimed at outflanking the German forces blocking Montgomery’s Eighth Army from advancing north from the “toe” of Italy. The landings were not a surprise to the German commander in southern Italy, Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring. The German commander, whom the Allies had nick-named “smiling Albert,” expected any amphibious invasion to be made within Allied tactical air support range of the newly-captured air bases in Sicily. Heavy pressure from the British in the far south meant, however, that although Kesselring considered the Salerno area a likely site for an Allied assault, he was only able to spare one division, the 16th Panzer to provide cover for the area. Over the next forty-eight hours, the troops of the 16th Panzer Division conducted a masterful mobile defense of the higher ground overlooking the Allied beaches. Finally, on the night of September 11th, elements from five German panzer and panzer grenadier divisions arrived to reinforce the hard-pressed 16th Panzer: the most desperate and bloody phase of the fighting for the beachhead was finally about to begin.


AVALANCHE is a complex tactical treatment of the intense fighting that erupted on the 9th and continued until the 17th of September between Allied and German ground, naval and air forces for control of the Salerno beachhead. The game’s introduction makes the respective goals of the two opposing players crystal clear: “The Allied commander [must] attempt to get ashore and stay ashore. The German commander [must] attempt to throw him into the sea or, failing that, inflict maximum casualties on him. The German has only until the 17th of September to do so, as by then the British 8th Army, driving up from the toe of Italy, will arrive and force him to withdraw.” AVALANCHE is an exciting and challenging test of the abilities of each commander to use both terrain and combined-arms tactics to outwit and outfight his foe. Moreover, according to a number of gamers whose opinions I respect, it is also, along with KORSUN POCKET and WACHT AM RHEIN, one of the best simulation treatments of a World War II battle ever published.

AVALANCHE offers, besides the Historical Standard Scenario, four optional scenarios which allow the players to experiment with historically possible alternatives that might have influenced the outcome of the actual engagement. These optional scenarios present different orders of battle, reinforcement arrivals, and even improved German supply capability. The designer suggests that players experiment with one or more of the options. This, it seems to me, is good advice as these alternatives can not only help fine-tune play balance, they can also prevent the game from becoming stale and overly predictable from one play session to the next.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 8 hours per game turn
  • Map Scale: 1300 yards per hex
  • Unit Size: Companies (armor may break down to platoons)
  • Unit Types (a GDW trademark is unit variation, and hence, this partial exposition): armor, armored infantry, motorized infantry, paratroops, glider troops, commandos, infantry, artillery, antiaircraft, antitank, engineers, naval, and information markers
  • Number of Players: Two (good candidate for team play)
  • Complexity: Above Average/High
  • Solitaire Suitability: Average (if you have the patience to move and keep track of 900 + counters)
  • Average Playing Time: For this complex mini-monster, think in terms of days, not hours

Game Components:

  • Two 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • • 960 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 5½”x 8½” Rules Booklet
  • Two 8½” x 11” back-printed Allied Charts (with OB, Unit Arrival, Unit ID, Combat Results Table, Artillery Table, Terrain Effects, and Unit Breakdown Chart)
  • Two 8½” x 11” back-printed German Charts (with same information as Allied Charts)
  • One 5½” x 8½” sheet of Errata (July 20, 1976)
  • One “Zip-Lock” Bag (original packaging)
  • One Customer Response Card


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