ANZIO is a brigade/division simulation of the war in Italy that covers the Allied campaign from September 1943 to April 1945. One player commands the multi-national Allies; the other the Germans. Although victory conditions vary depending on the scenario being played, the goals of the opposing sides are simple: the Allied player must drive north up the Italian “boot” in order to destroy German combat strength and to seize certain territorial objectives within a specified number of game turns; the German must stop him, while limiting his combat losses. ANZIO follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player moves and initiates combat; then the second player repeats the process, ending the game turn. This uncomplicated, move-fight turn sequence, however, is deceiving in that it really doesn’t describe the flow and tempo of the game.
ANZIO, along with AH’s 1914, introduced a number of new concepts that have become commonplace today. Of course, Williams’ design continues to be enjoyed by a small, but loyal, band of enthusiasts. In contrast, Jim Dunnigan’s second professional design effort (his first was JUTLAND) — the incomprehensible and generally tedious 1914 — has pretty much disappeared into well-deserved obscurity. ANZIO broke new ground for Avalon Hill in a number of ways. In a gaming era when most enthusiasts were playing BATTLE OF THE BULGE, STALINGRAD, WATERLOO, or AFRIKA KORPS, ANZIO pushed into new, barely-explored territory with its sophisticated game mechanics. The game’s designer, Dave Williams, emphasized complex, accurate (if ugly) cartography and well-researched, detailed orders of battle in order to create realistic, historically plausible challenges for his players. In addition, ANZIO was one of the first game designs to use step-reduction combat results, exploitation combat, automatic victories, breakthroughs, and basic and advanced scenarios of varying lengths to improve the historicity and playability of the game.
The overall design and game system were generally well-received by players from the outset. It should be noted, however, that Williams’ game did garner its share of detractors. Most criticism centered on the graphics used in the original version. The right-left organization of the Order of Appearance Charts is awkward, and the game map and original box art was, according to Redmond Simonsen and others, almost too amateurish to be believed. The box cover of the 4th edition is now graced with an excellent design from Rodger MacGowan, but, alas, the map retains its original “hand-drawn” look as well as its unspeakable 1st edition color scheme. On the other hand, having subsequently had my eyes torched by the game map from Danny Parker’s DARK DECEMBER, I must confess that the ANZIO map has started to grow on me.
ANZIO is several games in one. The Basic Game begins with the Allied invasion on the September II (1943) game turn and continues up to and including the German player phase of the December IV (1943) game turn. Once players have mastered the basic rules, they are encouraged to add the supplementary rules to the Basic Game for increased realism. In both cases, the Allied player wins if he controls (in supply) five cities out of nine potential objectives. In addition to the supplementary rules, the Basic Game also allows for the introduction of optional rules to further increase realism or improve play-balance.
The Advanced Game scenarios in ANZIO allow players to play until they reach one of three decision points on the turn record chart: secure southern Italy by December IV (1943); capture Rome and central Italy by June III (1944); or capture northern Italy by the end of the German player’s turn on April IV (1945). Like the Basic Game, the Advanced Game also contains a supplementary rules section and additional optional rules for players thoroughly familiar with the game system. For those players who actually invest the time to master its subtleties, the 4th Edition of ANZIO is probably the most contemporary “old” game they will ever play.
- Time Scale: 4 game turns per month
- Map Scale: not given
- Unit Size: battalion/regiment/brigade/division
- Unit Types: armor/panzer, panzer parachute, armored engineers, armored infantry/panzergrenadier, infantry, mountain infantry, luftwaffe infantry, parachute, cavalry, special service force, ranger, commando, task force, ersatz, machine gun, nebelwerfer and partisan
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average/above average (depending on rules set played)
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 2½-10 + hours (depending on scenario)
- One (two section) 14” x 44” hexagonal grid Map Board (with Unit Identification Chart incorporated)
- 448 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8” x 11” 4th Edition Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions and Historical Commentary incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” Step Reduction Table (Combat Results Table)
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed German Basic Game Record Card/Unit Organization Chart/German Order of Battle Chart
- One 8½” x 11” German Unit Organization Card
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Allied Basic Game Record Card/Unit Organization Chart/Allied Order of Battle Chart
- One 8½” x 11” Allied Unit Organization Card
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Advanced Game Time Record Card
- One six-sided Die
- One Avalon Hill Catalog
- One Customer Response Card
- One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¼” flat cardboard Game Box
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.