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Cassino is one of the most iconic battles of the Second World War. It was here that the battle hinged on the infantryman. While so many other battles relied on mobility and speed, Cassino was about putting one foot in front of the other and living to tell the tale.
Cassino is our second book that focuses on the Italian theatre in late war. The other is Dogs and Devils, which focuses on the battles around the Anzio beachhead. Cassino looks at the forces further inland that were locked in combat for nearly six long and bloody months.
Fallschirmjäger (Fearless Veteran)
Returning to Cassino, let’s have a quick look at the Axis forces. The first is the famous Fallschirmjäger. This force represents a typical company from the 1. Fallschirmjägerdivision. This force is built to be a highly motivated (platoons and companies pass Morale Checks on a result of 2+) making them very difficult to break. Allied players will have to reduce them one by one in order to clear an objective. This reflects the Fallschirmjägers’ complete unwillingness to give even an inch of ground.
The FJ have a lot of cheap support as well from the Heer divisions and army support. So they can have plenty of assault gun and artillery support to get the job done. Speaking of artillery, Cassino was one place where everyone was able to bring massed artillery to bear on the enemy, so be looking for additional artillery options!
Reichsgrenadiers (Confident Trained)
The second Axis force is the 44. Reichsgrenadierdivision. These guys are awesome if only for the fact that their heritage stems from Imperial Austria and they were used as assault troops in Stalingrad, making them literally Imperial Storm Troopers! Now resurrected from the ashes of Stalingrad and with a load of new recruits, the division has been rushed to Cassino to man the defences of the Gustav and Hitler Lines. While relatively inexperienced (rated Trained) compared to the FJ (Veteran) the Reichsgrenadiers really come into their own with the addition of Cassino Fortifications. Their cheap cost helps players build a tough fortified position.
Cassino Fortifications represent the formidable Gustav and Hitler Lines. These lines befuddled the Allied armies for six months with hundreds of machine-gun and anti-tank nests interconnected by trench lines and barbed wire entanglements. Strong points were built around the powerful Pantherturm, or Panther turrets. These turrets are extremely well armoured and pack a punch in terms of anti-tank (same general stats as a Panther tank). As a bunker, the Panther turrets are difficult to spot and even harder to knock out.
Cassino fortifications are available to both the Fallschirmjäger and the Reichsgrenadiers, giving them the ability to halt an Allied advance cold in its tracks!
90th ‘Sardinien’ Panzergrenadierdivision (Confident Veteran)
Finally we have the 90. ‘Sardinien’ Panzergrenadierdivision. This division has been reconstituted from wounded survivors of the old 90th Light Africa Division from the famous Deutches Afrika Korps. Based in Sardinia, the division was reformed and sent to Cassino to act as a mobile reserve. At Cassino they quickly met each Allied attack and stopped them from gaining ground. In Cassino, the 90th is well equipped to deal with an Allied attack.
One of their best tricks is the Reserve Panther Platoon. Panther tanks from this platoon are always held in Reserve and are always the last to arrive from Reserve. This gives them the flexibility to stay off the table until the right moment, keeping them away from pesky Allied artillery and tank-hunters. Furthermore they catch a massive points break, making them noticeable cheaper than normal Panthers.
The 90th has some other tricks, such as some of Germany’s last flame Panzer IIIs, assault guns, and tank-hunters. They can also take some Cassino Field fortifications, which are lighter than the normal fortifications, but still offer the army some excellent protection, such as mines and HMG nests.
Goumiers (Fearless Trained)
Switching to the other side we have some tough Allied lists lined up for those players who want to play the ‘good guys’. First in line are the fearsome French Goumiers. These Berbers call the Atlas Mountains of Morocco home and their rough and tumble lifestyle has turned them into bloodthirsty fighters. The Goums are definitely the sort of troops you want fighting on your side and not your enemy’s!
They are ruthless. With Cautious Movement, they are tough to hit (considered Gone-to-Ground, even if they move in concealing terrain). They have the Assault Troops special rule, which means they will recover from being Pinned Down quite easily (they are also Fearless). As French Colonial Troops they hit in Assaults on a 3+ (normally Trained troops hit on a 4+), making sure there are few survivors to counter-attack. Finally, they are mountaineers, so no place is safe from their wrath!
Nisei (Fearless Veteran)
Following that we have the American Nisei, or second generation Japanese-Americans. It’s a well-known, yet sad fact that thousands of Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps in the western US following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Scared Americans quickly classed their own citizens as threats and sent them away. However, these internees were just as loyal to America as their jailors and nothing demonstrated this more than the Nisei volunteers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
This unit became the most decorated one of its size in all of the US army, past or present. Their fanatical devotion to victory was well noted by commanders on both sides of the war and Cassino was the perfect time to bring these heroic troops to the battlefield.
First off it might be noted that the Nisei ought to be Trained as they had seen only a little combat as the 442nd before Cassino. While true on the surface, a detailed review of the unit’s history reveals otherwise. The 100th Battalion formed the core of the Regimental Team and they had been fighting for a few months and rapidly gained the experience and reputation to equal other veteran forces. In fact, commanders relied on the Nisei to get missions done more often than other similar units, resulting in a relatively high proportion of days in combat. That, coupled with the unit’s performance during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, shortly after Cassino, and its combat record in northern Italy, demanded that this unit be one of the very rare exceptions where we would give them a Veteran rating.
Beyond being Fearless Veteran, the Nisei have a lot of excellent special rules that reflect their complete dedication to the mission at hand. Like their comrades in Dogs & Devils, the Nisei riflemen have the Sharpshooter special rule, giving them extra firepower while shooting. They rarely retired from the field without having completed their mission, giving them the ability to pass company and platoon morale checks on 2+ (called Fighting for Dear Old Uncle Sam). Using the Round up the Huns! special rule, the Nisei rally from being Pinned Down on a 2+, which will allow them to keep pushing forward to victory. Finally, Go For Broke allows Nisei that are Pinned Down by defensive fire to try and launch the assault again, hopefully with a better result.
In the end the Nisei are a defender’s worst nightmare, they will not stop coming for you no matter how many casualties you might inflict. They are tough fighters and are truly among America’s best troops in the war.
91st Cavalry Recon (Confident Veteran)
Years ago I had the privilege to know Fred Salter from Kalispell, Montana. He was a recon scout with the 91st Cavalry, and I would spend hours listening to his war stories. Eventually he got around to writing his memoirs called Recon Scout, which you can find on Amazon and other online bookstores. With Cassino I finally had the opportunity to include this amazing unit in the world of Flames Of War.
The 91st had been fighting non-stop since Tunisia when they arrived at Cassino. This new battlefield forced them to dismount and fight on foot. Unlike other situations that forced units to fight dismounted, Cassino was a bit more permanent, and the cavalrymen moved all of their manpower and firepower into the front lines, making their platoons as large as any other US rifle platoon. However, their main advantage came from the many machine-guns the cavalrymen dismounted from their M3A1 scout cars. In Flames Of War a dismounted cavalry platoon can swap out any if its teams for a number of various weapons, making them quite adaptable to the situation at hand.
The 91st fought as an independent unit throughout the war, never being assigned to any one division or even corps for very long. As a result they were often overlooked for the latest equipment and had to make do with a lot of older model weapons and vehicles. In Cassino you will notice that they have a lot of older vehicles, such as the M6 37mm GMC. The 91st received these back before the war even started, and since they were an independent unit, never reorganised along with the other squadrons. So they used them as infantry guns and such all the way up to the battle of Cassino.
The cavalry rubbed shoulders with many of the famous units in Italy. They fought alongside the First Special Service Force in the early stages of the battle. They provided the intelligence and communication link between the US 5th and British Eighth Armies, and held the 2nd New Zealand’s right flank across from Cassino itself. For the final breakout the 91st joined the spearhead elements of the French Expeditionary Corp and fought alongside the Goums as they outflanked the Gustav and Hitler Lines. So, expect to see a lot of interesting support options in their organisation.
They have a few of their own special rules as well. Their extended period of time as infantrymen forced them to learn to remain steady in the face of fire, and as such they may re-roll failed Motivation tests when forced to Disengage.
During their first break in almost 12 months of fighting, they were trained as mountaineers near Mount Vesuvius by the famous Italian Alpini troops. This training came in handy after the breakout and the race to Rome.
4th and 8th Indian Divisions (Fearless Veteran)
The Indian divisions have been fighting for a while and their zeal for victory hasn’t diminished at all. These Fearless Veterans are exceptionally good at tackling the mountains of Cassino and bringing the fight to the Fallchirmjäger. The Indians have the capability to cross impassable terrain using the North-west Frontier special rule, so you can outflank Axis players using routes they might deem impossible!
Indians also have the War Cry special rule which means that their enemies must re-roll motivation tests to counterattack them in an assault. This means that Indians can push the enemy out of their trenches and foxholes and into the open where they can be gunned down or assaulted.
Furthermore, the Indian divisions contain tough Ghurka fighters. These fighters come from the Himalayan Mountains and have come to accept a tough life. They are ferocious in combat with their khukuri knives. The Ghurkas had plenty of opportunity to use these knives in heavily rocky and mountainous battlefield of Cassino. These knives give Ghurkas the ability to re-roll failed hits in assault. There will be few if any survivors left over from a Ghurka assault!
2nd New Zealand Division (Confident Veteran)
The small yet proud country of New Zealand supplied the 2nd New Zealand Division to the war effort early in the war. Now the division has found itself on the main battlefield of Cassino.
Kiwis are an ingenious people and as such they have the 4 by 2 and No. 8 Wire special rule. This comes from an old Kiwi saying that they could fix anything with a bit of 4x2 timber and a bit of Number 8 wire! This gives them the German Mission Tactics special rule, which allows you to always keep a command team on the table no matter what misfortune might befall the platoon!
The Kiwis also have a new artillery special rule called Rumpus. The British Stonk bombardment program was actually developed by the Kiwis in the desert and when the Brits modified it a bit, the Kiwis changed the name of the bombardment as Rumpus and carried on using their tried and true methods. When a NZ Field Battery fires a Stonk or Murder bombardment and it ranges in on the first attempt, enemy teams must re-roll successful saves. This will certainly help clear the way for your troops’ assault!
The Kiwis were handled pretty rough though the war. They were used as a rearguard for a defeated British army in Greece, evacuated from Crete after the German invasion of the island, and mishandled in the desert of North Africa. All of this leading up to Cassino led General Freyberg, commander of the NZ Corps, to give the British the ultimatum that he would remove his New Zealanders if their casualties exceeded 1000, forcing the British generals to think twice about misusing them again. To reflect this, in Flames Of War, a New Zealand Rifle Company passes company morale checks on a result of 5+ rather than the normal 4+ for troops rated Confident. So you can expect your men to fight hard, but you’ll want to conserve your troops as best you can or else General Freyberg will order you out of the battle!
A New Zealand Division can also field a rifle company from the 28th (Maori) Battalion. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and they insisted on forming their own battalion of men to fight the Axis. They were organised and joined the rest of the Kiwis in Europe when the war started. A Maori rifle company uses the Haka special rule in addition to the other NZ special rules. The Haka is a war dance performed within earshot of the enemy with the aim to intimidate them. Like the Indian War Cry special rule, an enemy platoon must re-roll its motivation test to counterattack a Maori platoon in assault combat. Furthermore, a Maori assault might get carried away for good or ill, and the platoon must attempt to launch breakthrough assaults if at all possible.
Besides these forces, Cassino also has Infantry Aces, an escalation campaign system built around the infantry battles of Cassino.
Cassino is an epic story and to do it any justice at all it needed an epic book. Cassino is 152 pages long and has a large amount of forces featured within. Cassino produced some of the most brutal fighting and out of that mess was born some truly legendary forces.