Battle for Italy Review by David Lent
Several years ago, I was at a game auction and picked up an unpunched copy of Avalon Hill Battle for Italy for $1.00 I’ve never been a student of the Napoleonic Wars, but I figured this would be an inexpensive way to learn more about this period. In addition, I avidly collect microgames so I needed this for my collection. This is a boxed gamette/microgame reprint of Operational Studies Group’s Arcola: The Battle for Italy, 1796 that was originally printed in Ziploc microgame format in 1979.
I assumed the components for the Avalon Hill edition would be better than the OSG edition. After looking at the components, I found this was only partially true. Having a box instead of a Ziploc bag is of course better. In addition, the mounted map in the Avalon Hill edition is better than the original paper map. The counters in both editions are pretty simple though. What surprised me is the rulebook is in an easier to read format in the OSG version. The rules are basically the same, but the Avalon Hill edition is on one piece of paper. What makes matters even worse, is the subsequent pages are not next to each other and you have to flip over and search the paper for the next page in the sequence. This makes looking up rules during the game a real headache.
The victory conditions for Battle for Italy are very straightforward. Austria wins by either occupying Verona and having it within dispatch distance at the end of turn 7 or the Austrians win by exiting 10 or more strength points off the Southern portion of the map between the two primary road hexes. The French win if the Austrians fail to achieve either of these objectives by the end of the game.
The Battle for Italy is different than typical hex and chit wargame rules. I have been told that this game uses a simplified version of rules from another Napoleonic game, but I can’t verify that since I haven’t played the other game. Unlike most wargames, in Battle for Italy only leaders are placed on the map and their combat units are held on the organizational display. During each side’s turn, only one leader is given a movement command. All other leaders must pass an initiative test to move. This allows leaders with higher initiative to have a greater chance of activating their combat units.
Leaders have an attribute called “Command span”, which says the number of units and subordinate leaders a leader may command. Subordinate leaders may break off from the leader to lead combat units on their own if they wish.
The rules were not crystal clear about how to setup the game, but my opponent had played this game before and showed me how to do it. It’s actually very easy, but the rulebook could have explained it better.
Battle for Italy plays really fast and a game resolves in less than 30 minutes once both players have learned the rules. The French have better leadership and can activate more leaders due to it. However, the Austrians have more powerful units and can often overpower the French in combat. The French have their work cut out for them in this game. They have to keep the Austrians out of Verona or surround it if they are occupying it. In addition, they have to keep the Austrians from exiting the Southern part of the map. If the Austrians don’t bother trying to hold Verona and instead send large task forces on forced marches to the South to exit the map, it is difficult for the weaker French forces to stop them.
This game is ok for a microgame, but it didn’t teach me very much about this conflict. I had fun playing it, but felt that not enough units activated per turn. There were not any occasions where anything exceptionally interesting happened because of that. I don’t regret buying this game since I collect microgames. However, I am going to search for some Napoleonic games that allow more units to activate per turn, because that may lead to more interesting game play.
If you have any you would like to recommend, please let me know in the comments box below.