51st Highland Division troops drive ashore on Bark South invasion beach, Pachino peninsula, Sicily.
At 0230 hours on 10 July, 1943, Allied troops from Patton’s US Seventh Army and Montgomery’s British Eighth Army began wading ashore on the southern coast of Sicily. Patton’s American forces were given responsibility for a western section of the landing zone that initially extended from the area around Licata in the west to Scoglitti in the east. Montgomery’s British and Canadian troops landed in the east in a north-south line of beachheads that ran from Syracuse in the north to Passero in the south. Happily for the Allied commanders, initial resistance to the landings was light. However, while the first day’s amphibious operations went well, the American and British airborne drops faired poorly. The initial Allied parachute landings and even those that followed on subsequent days were, for the most part, badly scattered; this meant that not only did the airborne units become disorganized in the hours immediately following their landings, but that important drop zones were often missed entirely. Moreover, Allied commanders were dismayed to see that both American and British paratroopers repeatedly suffered heavy casualties from friendly fire. Nonetheless, despite its several glitches, ‘Operation Husky’ was off to a good start.
"Strike for Gela, Sicily July 11, 1943" painting by David Pentland showsTiger I tanks of the Hermann Goering Division attacking the US 7th Army landing beach on the first day of Operation Husky.
Once ashore, the Allied troops that continued to pour into the different beachheads began to link up with each other and then to push inland. The Allied plan was simple; and whatever ‘Husky’ may have lacked in brilliance, it made up for in directness. In simplest terms, Patton was tasked with covering Montgomery’s left flank while the British Field Marshal fought his way north along the narrow strip of coast — known as the Plain of Catania — between Mt. Etna and the sea. Montgomery’s primary objective was the port city of Messina on the northeastern tip of the island. The rapid capture of Messina, Allied planners knew, would not only cut the main route of Axis supplies into Sicily, it would also trap any Axis troops that were still fighting in the west of the island when the port fell.
General Alfredo Guzzoni, Commander in Chief Army Group Liguria
Interestingly enough, a share of the invasion’s initial success could be traced to pure good luck. July 9th had seen a powerful gale blow into the Mediterranean Sea around Sicily, and the storm had battered the area for much of the day. Thus, the heavy weather and rough seas on 9 July had lulled the Axis high command into a false sense of temporary security. Nonetheless, Sicily’s defenders rapidly recovered from their initial surprise at the first enemy landings, and German and Italian forces quickly reacted to the unwelcome and growing Allied presence by aggressively moving to establish a front that ran parallel and north of the still-expanding Allied beachheads. This first Axis defense line was hurriedly cobbled together primarily just to fence the Allies into the southern part of the island; it ran from the outskirts of Licata in the west, to the ground just north of Syracuse in the east. However, the commander of all Axis forces in Sicily, Italian General Alfredo Guzzoni, was not content merely to scrape together an ad hoc defensive line. The Italian commander realized that if he did not act quickly to throw the Allied invasion back into the sea, the already shaky morale of many of his Italian units would begin to crumble. Thus, Guzzoni did not wait, but struck back on the first day. His point of attack was well chosen. Correctly ascertaining that the most vulnerable point in the Allied front was opposite the town of Gela, General Guzzoni ordered an immediate counterattack on July 10th with elements of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division and the Italian Livorno Division against the Allied beachhead.
This first, hastily-organized attack was badly coordinated, and the combination of accurate naval gunfire and stubborn fighting on the part of the American infantrymen easily stopped and then turned the attackers back. However, the Gela sector of the Allied position, although it had withstood Guzzoni’s first limited counterattack, still remained very shallow; and Axis armor was beginning at last to arrive in the immediate battle area and in considerable strength. This meant that soon, General Guzzoni would have the forces necessary to launch a powerful, well-coordinated assault. The engagement on 10 July had been a minor test of the American position; the full weight of the Axis attack would fall on the same sector on the 11th; and the Italian commander was becoming increasingly optimistic about its prospects for success.
INVASION: SICILY is an operational (battalion/regiment/brigade) level simulation of the Allied landings and follow-up campaign against Axis forces in Sicily during July-August, 1943. The two-color game map represents the large triangular-shaped island off the southern tip of Italy over which the campaign was fought. The game counters represent the actual military units that either participated or that could have played a part in the historical campaign. As an odd little ‘hobby history’ note: although the game’s Allied units are all designated using traditional 'NATO-style' unit symbols, this was the first U.S. game to identify its Axis counters using German symbols for size and type. SICILY is played in game turns each of which are equivalent to two days of real time. Game turns are further divided into two symmetrical segments: an Allied Commander (AC) and an Axis Commander (XC) player turn. The Allied player is always the first to act, and each player turn proceeds in a set sequence: AC reinforcement phase; AC initial movement phase; AC combat phase; and AC exploitation movement phase. Once the Allied Commander’s exploitation phase is completed, the Axis Commander (XC) then performs the same sequence of actions. At the conclusion of the Axis player turn, the game turn marker is advanced one space, and the turn sequence is repeated until the game ends. A complete game is twenty-five turns long. It should be noted that along with the new units that become available to enter the game on certain turns as reinforcements, both players will also periodically be able to replace previously eliminated units when replacements are called for by the reinforcement track. However, units that were eliminated while surrounded, airborne/glider units, and commando/ranger units may never be replaced if lost.
British airborne troops beside US Waco gliders in North Africa before action July 10, 1943 Sicily
The game mechanics of SICILY are relatively easy to learn and, although a little unusual, are intuitively logical. The movement rules are, on the whole, straightforward and familiar: all Italian units have a basic movement allowance of three (3) movement points; all other Axis and Allied units have a basic movement allowance of five (5). Both Allied and Axis mechanized units, so long as they neither begin nor end their movement next to an enemy unit, may move their full movement allowance during the exploitation movement phase. Non-Italian units may double their movement allowance — referred to as a ‘Redeployment Move’ — if the moving unit neither begins, nor ends its initial movement phase adjacent to an enemy unit; however, any mechanized unit that moves in this fashion, may not perform an exploitation move in the same game turn. Also, on the first game turn only, any Italian formations that are not adjacent to enemy units at the beginning of their initial movement phase may move twice their normal movement allowance. Somewhat surprisingly, the stacking rules differ slightly for the two players: three units of any nationality may stack in non-mountainous terrain, but only two Allied or two German units may stack in mountainous terrain; however, as an exception to this mountain restriction, three Italian units, or one German and two Italian units may stack together in a mountain hex. In addition, stacking limits apply at all times during the game turn.
As one odd little wrinkle, unlike the zone of control (ZOC) rules found in traditional games, SICILY makes use of a game concept called ‘range of influence’ (ROI). However, only certain units in INVASION: SICILY exert a range of influence. All German units, for example, always exert a ROI, and a stack of two or more Allied units — if from the same division — do so, as well. Italian units, on the other hand, never exert a range of influence, whether stacked or not. ROI’s essentially behave just like ZOC’s: units must stop upon entering an enemy ROI and may not move directly from one to another hex over which the same unit is exerting an ROI. Also, just like ZOC’s, ranges of influence block supply lines and paths of retreat.
The rules governing supply in INVASION: SICILY are unexpectedly complicated and take a little getting used to; they also differ for each side. For starters, all ports and certain beaches are assigned a numerical supply capacity which indicates how many units each can support. Messina, for example can supply twenty-seven units; the port of Licata, only three. All Allied units are supplied if they either occupy or can trace a supply path (of any length) to either a friendly beach or to a friendly port hex with sufficient logistical capacity to support them. Axis units, on the other hand, may only draw supply from the ports (if friendly) of Palermo, Catania, or Messina; Axis Coast Defense units, however, are always in supply. Also, both players may draw a small amount of air supply through friendly-controlled airfields. Needless-to-say, thus far, the supply rules are all standard fare for a typical invasion game; where the supply requirements actually get complicated is in the area of ‘supply bottlenecks’. In SICILY, the different types of terrain all place varying limits on the number of units that can be supplied through their hexes. For example, any supply line that, at some point, must pass through a single clear terrain hex would be able to convey supply for only seven units, no matter what the actual logistical capacity of the supply source actually is; even worse, if the supply path, at any point, passes through a mountain hex, then that capacity is reduced to a single unit. This design feature, by the way, makes roads — because they allow the transport of supply for up to fifteen units — absolutely critical to the offensive and defensive plans of both sides. The effects of being out of supply are the same for both the Germans and the Allies: unsupplied units may not attack, their movement allowance is reduced to three, and they may not use either ‘redeployment movement’ or ‘exploitation movement’. In the case of the Italians, unsupplied units also may not attack, but their movement allowance is reduced to two movement points; in addition, any Italian units that are unsupplied for five consecutive game turns ‘surrender’ at the end of the Axis player turn and are eliminated from play.
Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Sicily, 1943
Terrain effects on movement and combat are handled in a logical and easy-to-use manner in SICILY. Movement across clear terrain, roads, or towns is at the normal rate; hill hexes cost Italian units two movement points to enter, and all other units four points; mountain hexes, not surprisingly, cost Italian formations three movement points and all other nationalities five points to enter; Mt. Etna is completely impassable. In addition, unbridged river hex-sides require both sides to expend one additional movement point to cross. Terrain effects on combat take the form of ‘die roll modifiers’ (DRM’s). Attacks across rivers or against town or mountain hexes add two (2) to the attacker’s die roll; attacks against hill positions add (1).
Marching through the mountains, Sicily, 1943
Combat between adjacent units in INVASION: SICILY is voluntary and, as already noted, units must be in supply at the instant of combat in order to attack. Defending units stacked in the same hex must be attacked as a unitary whole; units attacking from the same hex, on the other hand, may attack the same hex, a different hex, or not conduct any attack, at all. Combat in SICILY, depending on the goals of the attacking player, can take one of three forms, each of which makes use of its own ‘odds differential’ type Combat Computation Chart (CCC). These different types of attacks are: the Limited Attack, the All Out Attack, and the Mobile Attack. The possible outcomes from the various types of battles range from Attacker or Defender Retreat one hex (AR or DR), to No Result (NR), to Exchange (Ex), to Attacker or Defender Eliminated (AE or DE). It should be noted that on all of the Rand games' CCC's, combat results are represented by symbols and not by the more usual 'letter' abbreviations. In the case of retreat results, the owning player determines the retreat hex. However, units may never retreat into impassable terrain, an enemy occupied hex, or through enemy ROI’s; if such a retreat is required, the retreated force is eliminated instead, and its value for ‘victory point’ computation is doubled.
Lt. General George Patton with Lt. Colonel Lyle Bernard, Sicily, 1943
One of the primary justifications for the invasion of Sicily was to extend the reach of Allied fighter-bombers over the southern part of the Italian boot. At the start of INVASION: SICILY, the Allied player controls two ‘air zones’ — one originating in Tunisia and one extending from Malta — which each encompass a different section of the island. On each game turn, beginning with the invasion, the Allied commander may add two ‘air points’ to any attack in one or both of these air zones. These points may not be combined and they may not be used for defense. Ten turns after all three airbase complexes on Sicily have been captured by Allied forces, a third air zone is added (with two more air points) which encompasses that portion of the island not already covered by the other two. In addition to air points, the Allied player may also call on two points of ‘naval gunfire’ to support attacks against coastal hexes.
British troops wade ashore from a landing craft, Sicily, 1943
INVASION: SICILY, as the game’s title implies, starts with the Allied seaborne invasion of Sicily, and the actual invasion rules are both logical and familiar. The Allied player begins the game with a total ‘sealift’ capacity of twenty-one points: this means that he may land up to twenty-one units on turn one; on turn two, he receives four more points for a game total of twenty-five. All of these points need not be used as they become available, or at all, for that matter; instead, some of them can be saved by the Allied commander for use on later game turns. The actual mechanics of invasion are relatively simple: on the first turn of a seaborne assault, the invading Allied units must expend their whole movement allowance to land, and are, as might be expected, automatically in supply during that initial game turn. Follow-up waves, on the other hand, are governed by the regular rules for movement and supply. In addition to his regular invasion capacity, the Allied player also has a certain number of commando and ranger units that he may bring ashore without expending any sealift points. However, if commando or ranger units attempt to land on a coastal hex outside of an Allied air zone, they risk a 33% chance of being permanently eliminated from play by the Germans. Beginning on game turn four, the Allied player must begin rolling for ‘weather’. On a die roll of six (bad weather), no air or sea movement of any type is permitted. This means no Allied invasions, no landings, and no air operations of any sort may be conducted. In addition, Allied-controlled beach hexes lose their supply capacity, and neither side may use 'redeployment' or 'exploitation movement' during bad weather game turns.
Besides special rules governing Amphibious Landings, Commando/Ranger Operations, Weather, and Air and Sea Power, SICILY also includes extensive rules covering Airborne Operations. The Allied player may air drop two parachute and/or glider units on the first game turn, and one unit on turn two; thereafter, he may air drop one unit on each odd-numbered turn right up until the end of the game; airlift, unlike sealift capacity, may not be accumulated for later game turns. All Allied parachute units, but not German fallschirmjager units, must roll for scatter immediately upon landing. Under most circumstances, of course, the Allied commander will be the player using airborne operations, but in certain situations, he may not be the only one doing so. The Axis player, for his part, receives airborne capable units on turn two, and he may occasionally be permitted to airdrop additional parachute/glider units if called for by the Variable Historical Occurrences Chart. Air landing units are automatically in supply, but, except for scattering, may not move on the game turn that they are air dropped. Finally, although this last should be obvious: the parachute/glider units from both sides need not enter the game via air drop, but may be brought onto the map as regular reinforcements at the owning players’ option.
The winner in SICILY is determined on the basis of control of certain geographical objectives and the destruction of enemy units. In addition, both players can receive victory points depending on how long the Axis player is able to maintain units on Sicily.
INVASION: SICILY offers two basic scenarios: the Historical set-up, reinforcement, and replacement scenario; and the Free set-up, reinforcement, and replacement scenario. In addition, the game also allows players to adjust play through the introduction of Variable Historical Occurrences; these ‘VHO’ options can be used with either the Historical or Free set-up scenarios. Besides the ‘VHO’ options, which can be selected either randomly (and in secret) or voluntarily, the designer also includes two rules that help recreate the “fog of war.” These optional ‘Restricted Information’ rules are: the Inverted Units rule and a rule for Air Reconnaissance.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONIt has been my experience that it is always a bad sign when a brand-new game arrives accompanied by its own post-publication errata. Thus, I was more than a little disappointed when I received my copy of INVASION: SICILY and discovered that it already had errata included with the rules. Moreover, a fairly detailed initial look at the new game indicated that yet additional errata would probably soon be on the way. This was even more frustrating because the preceding title from Rand Game Associates (RGA), SARATOGA: 1777, had actually been a surprisingly interesting and challenging little game. Moreover, gaps and glitches in the rules were not the only things off-putting about this ‘Command Games Series’ title.
Actually, even before the arrival of this third RGA installment, my irritation over the Rand practice of introducing “innovation for innovation’s sake” was already beginning to rankle. Thus, it was more and more clear as I had worked my way through the rules to Invasion: Sicily that I was going to have a problem with the new game; not just because of inadequate play-testing, but also for other reasons as well. First, the recurrent RGA practice — still virtually unheard of in 1974 — of introducing ‘brand specific’ terminology to replace perfectly useable game concepts was becoming increasingly tiresome to me. And never more so than in this, Rand Game Associates first hexagonal game design. For example, instead of zones of control, RGA insisted on renaming ZOC’s, ‘ranges of influence’ (ROI’s): a practice so pointless that even the designer — in one section of the rules — momentarily forgot his own terminology and lapsed back into referring to ROI’s as zones of control. Moreover, I couldn’t help asking myself another question that had been nagging at me since I first received LEE vs. MEADE: What the heck was wrong with the term, combat results table (CRT), and why did RGA persist in referring to CRT’s as Combat Computation Charts (CCC’s)? In short, if there actually was a point to any of these word substitutions, or to the practice — apparently, pioneered in INVASION: SICILY — of referring to optional game ‘variants’ as ‘Variable Historical Occurrences’, what was it? And if there was one, it was completely lost on me. But irritating as these little designer conceits were, I soon discovered that there was yet another teeth-gnashing feature contained in the game, as well.
In one of the most pointless inanities to ever spring unbidden from the mind of a wargame designer, the author of INVASION: SICILY (could it really be David Isby?) decided to annotate all of the Axis counters in the game with German military size and type designations (instead of the more familiar NATO symbols). It apparently never occurred to anyone at RGA to ask why no one had ever done this before. Unfortunately, once Rand Game Associates introduced this lamentable practice, the “genie was out of the bottle” and it wasn’t too long before Randall Reed over at Avalon Hill decided that this was such a nifty idea that he would use comparable designations for the thousands of counters — both German and Allied — that came with Avalon Hill’s one and only true monster game, THE LONGEST DAY (1979). Sadly, Reed’s detour into semi-lunacy was not the end of it. Other designers have followed in his footsteps; and, much to my dismay, I periodically see new evidence that this pernicious practice continues to surface in the hobby even up to the present day.
Which brings us, at last, to the most important question: What about the game, itself? The answer to that question is actually a little more difficult than it looks. To start with, because of my own immediate disappointment and frustration with the new title, I quickly loaned INVASION: SICILY to a couple of friends; who, oddly enough, decided after playing the game a few times that they did not dislike either the game or its design eccentricities nearly as much as I did. Thus, the unexpected verdict came back to me that it was actually a decent simulation of the battle for Sicily. Nonetheless, I remained skeptical and unmoved in spite of this lukewarm endorsement; so one of the two players who had originally borrowed my copy of the game hit on a plan: he took to badgering me relentlessly until I finally agreed to sit down with him for a pair of ‘sides-reversed’ matches of INVASION: SICILY. By the end of the second match, I grudgingly had to admit that the game was not quite as bad as I had originally thought. However, while these two outings proved to me that the design wasn’t a total loss, they didn’t make me fall in love with the game either; in fact, that long-ago pair of matches still represents the only two times that I have ever played the game. And this, by the way, is a situation that I have no interest in changing, any time soon.
- Time Scale: 2 days per game turn
- Map Scale: 12.5 kilometers per hex (estimated)
- Unit Size: battalion/regiment/brigade
- Unit Types: infantry/infanterie, armor/panzer, armored infantry/panzer grenadier, parachute/fallschirmjager, glider, commando/ranger
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours (depending on whether optional rules are in use)
- One 17” x 24” hexagonal Grid Map Sheet (with various Combat Computation Charts, Allied and Axis Historic Reinforcement Charts, Allied and Axis Variable Historical Occurrences Charts, Sequence of Play Aid, Terrain Key, and Terrain Analysis Chart incorporated)
- 72 ⅝” cardboard Counters
- One 8” x 8” INVASION: SICILY Rules Booklet
- One 6½” x 8” INVASION: SICILY Errata Sheet
- One 6½” x 8” back-printed combined Rand Game Associates Customer letter and additional combined Errata for LEE vs. MEADE and SARATOGA: 1777
Universal ‘Command Series’ Components Required:
- Universal Turn Recorder
- ‘Tac’ Cards
- One six-sided Die
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Review of this title which is strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU