Campaign Italy: Tough Gut is the second supplement for Bolt Action from Warlord Games focusing on the allied thrust into mainland Europe via the Italian peninsula. It follows its sister book, Campaign Italy: Soft Underbelly. The book is split into four main sections; an overview of the Italian campaign, scenarios, new units and new theater selectors and campaign rules. Make no mistake – this book is a weighty tome!
The author does an excellent job at laying out the historical record, spanning 26 pages that delves into all the issues the Allied forces faced squaring off against the Gustav Line, The Liri Valley & the Anzio landings.
The scenarios presented in Tough Gut are very well written with interesting table layouts and environmental factors that will lead to some memorable gaming moments. Tough Gut has 10 scenarios total, with several of them having an option of being multiplayer (up to 5 commanders!) battles. For victory conditions, there’s a solid mix of objective-based, such as capturing an Overpass or the castle grounds at the top of Castle Hill, and straight-up blood baths with battles being determined by victory points.
The author has done an excellent job of capturing just why the Allies had such a hard time fighting in Italy with the use of the aforementioned environmental factors. Italy has some very rough country with mountainous terrain. Steep slopes impeded movement, the rainy season turned everything slick and made digging in impossible. Some of the new features include rules for generic units such as chaplains, generic equipment like demolition charges, rules for fortifications, minefields (which is a great modelling opportunity because several of the scenarios feature minefields extensively!), rules for fighting in prepared positions presented as Digging In, multinational forces and rules for battlefield conditions. This is honestly my favorite part of the book because it really highlights the dismal conditions veterans of the Second World War fought in. Battlefield conditions include modifiers for Trench Foot, Frostbite, Rain or Fog, Snow, Mud and Rubble. Not all of these conditions are equal in terms of complexity. For instance, Mud features a table that can really mess up a commanders plans for the vehicles and armor. Frostbite, on the other hand, simply removes models from units prior to the start of a battle. I think this ruleset is an accurate representation of how cold and uncaring mother nature can be during battles, but in terms of gameplay having to remove models from the table before the game even starts isn’t great. Lastly, there’s a rule section for moving through the sewers of a city. It works like a normal outflank move but the modifier is -2 instead of -1 to arrive, a FUBAR roll results in the entire unit being destroyed and a successful roll allows the unit to pop up anywhere on the table more than 6″ away from an enemy unit. Potentially very powerful – high risk, high reward!
New Units & New Theater Selectors
Despite this book only covering five months, it’s a massive resource for Bolt Action players. The meat of this comes from the sections on New Units and New Theater Selectors. The British & Commonwealth, French, United States, Allied Italians, Axis Italians and Germans all get new units. In addition, some historical figures are presented as optional Heroic Units for some of the respective nations, such as the US getting Staff Sergeant Audie Murphy and the Italians getting Capitano Edoardo Sala.
One of my favorite things about Tough Gut, both in the scenarios and the new units, is the central focal point on various forces that aren’t often in the forefront of depictions of the Second World War. For instance, one of the new units for the British is New Zealand/Maori Officers and Infantry Sections. Also highlighted are other groups that took part in the battle for Italy; Indians, Gurkhas, Canadians, Polish, Goumier, and Spahi infantry all get entries along with bespoke rules. The US get access to the 100th Battalion Nisei Infantry Squad, an historical unit made entirely of Japanese-American soldiers who signed up to fight for their country, despite the atrocious way their families were treated back on the home front. Their special rules highlight their tenacity, having Tough Fighters, Going for Broke which lets them automatically pass tests for assaults, Tank Hunters and Most Decorated Outfit in This Man’s Army, which lets them ignore one pin when making both order and morale tests (an example of the expert historical accuracy in this book. The 100th was known as the Purple Heart Battalion for having been awarded 1,000 purple hearts during their participation in the Italian campaign).
The Axis powers are by no means left by the wayside as both the Germans and Axis Italians are host to numerous new units with tons of options, including the Gewehr 43 Sniper Team, which has a chance to fire off a second shot at the same unit it fired at. Fallschrimjager also feature heavily in the German section (representing the 1st and 4th Fallschrimjager divisions).
For theater selectors there’s an interesting choice made in which all British, Commonwealth and British-supported armies do not benefit from their normal national characteristics sine all the units in this campaign book include special rules. There are special rules for Irish, Scottish Highland, Guards Units, Canadians, Indian, New Zealand, South African, Polish and Commandos, however. Each of the theater selectors are themed around a specific historical force. For example, one of the German options is the 1st Parachute Corps Reinforced Platoon, which fought at Anzio, for roughly two months before they were whittled down to less than 20% combat effectiveness. The options for each theater selector are massive. You can truly take a ton of options with each one, although this should be tempered that some of the scenarios in the book are restrictive in what you can actually take. If you’re looking to simply play battles based around the theater, you will be a veritable kid in a candy store.
The Final Call
Campaign Italy: Tough Gut is a well-researched book. The historical record informs the layout of the overall book with really unique scenario options, including options for very large scale, weekend-spanning games with multiple commanders, and a host of new units, rules, and theater selectors that will make for excellent games. Some of the scenarios are, to me, a little too restrictive in what can be taken in them. It will require the majority of players to model units they will use in a handful of games specific to the battles presented in the book. That being said, it also presents modelers with a guide rail on building and painting forces that saw extensive action in the first half of 1944. On the downside, there seem to be a plethora of rules in this campaign book that force losses on players without units actually seeing battles, or having to flat out destroy a unit, such as sewer movement or some of the Allied Italian units having the Desertion special rule, where if a unit has taken 3 or more casualties in a single turn then on a 1 or a 2 the entire unit is destroyed. it may just come down to personal preference, but I’m not a fan of having to remove models I’ve spent hours painting and basing wholesale. Despite these issues, if you’re even remotely interested in playing Bolt Action games themed around the Italian Campaign, then I say Campaign Italy: Tough Gut is a must.
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