GW36 Italian Strategy - Operazione Chiave (Operation Key).
I’ve written an article twice, both times I have mistakenly closed or refreshed the webpage and lost my work. I had decided to give up in frustration, but have now worked up the nerve to tackle this again. But I got sidetracked, and instead of writing about GW36 Italian Strategy - Somalian Pirate (Crouching Benito) I wrote this article.
Italy; Italy has always been considered almost a throw away power in the classic G40 game, derided and abused for its insignificance once its initial strength is spent; and realistically it seems that only if the Italians do everything cleverly and the Allies are distracted then perhaps the Italians succeed in becoming a significant power in their own right.
In G36, Italy seems to follow a similar pattern. In 1936, Italy may be considered a strong presence in the Mediterranean; with a concentrated and powerful navy and a decent army and airforce present in Africa and Europe.
It begins falling behind in strength as the greater incomes of other powers allow them to build up their armed forces quicker, and that margin is only widened when war, and wartime income, breaks out across Europe.
Once Italy is at war, every battle becomes costly, replacements and reinforcements cannot be afforded easily. Fighting a two front war becomes the ultimate challenge of luck, maneuver and clever spending.
The tendency in a typical classic GW 1936 game is this:
Germany initiates war by attacking Poland and France.
Italy waits until the French Navy has been neutralized via Vichy France government before declaring war against the United Kingdom.
Italy runs rampant in the Mediterranean for a few turns.
The British forgoes liberating France until a later date, buckle down in defensive positions in Africa and concentrate the Royal Navy.
A series of battles take place; the Italian Regia Marina and the British Royal Navy clash. Italy attacks the British before they become entrenched, or the British have built up or concentrated enough forces to begin dislodging the Italians.
A victor emerges. Perhaps the Italians have gained a respite for few more turns, perhaps they have lost, but now there is a race to replenish losses.
The Allied Wartime Income wins, and another clash occurs; this time, the British, or the Americans win.
Italians lose ground rapidly. The Allies control the Mediterranean Sea. With a long coastline to gaurd Italy can not afford to support its army in Africa and must focus all its income to guard its shores.
Then Operation Torch and Husky becomes an option, or even a direct attack on Rome. Regardless, Italy ceases to become a threat and is neutralized.
This is what happens in a classic game. It is by no means the rule, and does not necessarily following the same pattern. If you want to be critical you can always disagree.
GW36 Italian Strategy - Operazione Chiave (Operation Key)
The Conquest of Gibraltar.
I strove to find any Italian military operation plan for capturing Gibraltar, but I could find nothing. Therefore the name derives from Italian wartime propaganda referring to itself as the “Prisoner in the Sea”, due to being contained within the Mediterranean by Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.
To expound upon this Italian Strategy. One overarching point must be recognized:
Italy cannot face the full might of the British and Americans alone.
I think the key for Axis Victory is coordination of strategy and threat. Threat must be placed on as many points at the cheapest cost.
If France has been annexed by the Germans, sufficient threat must be placed on British convoy lines, British homelands, and British Factories so that their forces must be dispersed and cannot be concentrated. By sending a submarine to attack convoy lines, you force your opponent to send two units to chase the submarine down. By building a transport ship, you force your opponent to garrison two territories. By building a bomber, you force your opponent to guard his factories.
It becomes a Materialschlacht, War of Material.
I will go deeper into this with another Strategy Highlight, and also touch upon it in Italian Strategy -Somalian Pirate (Crouching Benito)-
The German threat is crucial in preventing a buildup of British forces in key territories in Gibraltar and Cairo, and prevents the concentration of the British Royal Navy to oppose the Italian Regia Marina.
But let us continue:
If Italy has lost superiority in the Mediterranean; its colonies are compromised, its conquests are indefensible, its homeland is threatened, and the enemy is in the harbor.
The Importance of controlling the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean Sea. Comprised of seven sea zones and several ports, Most territories can be reached in as little as two moves away, and a maximum of three.
Bordering the Sea Zone are 24 Coastal territories and 8 Islands, 19 of which have an IPP value (6 Axis, 9 Allied, 4 Neutral).
1 IPP for Italy.
1 IPP for Britian.
In addition, the Allies collectively gain 6 IPP for the control of the Suez Canal.
Italy collects 2 IPP for Gibraltar, 2 IPP for the Suez, and 2 IPP for no Hostile Ships in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Key Mediterranean Territories are:
Gibraltar: Locks the Atlantic-Mediterranean Gate.
Morocco: Locks Western North Africa - Africa land route.
Egypt: Locks Eastern North Africa - Africa land route.
Cairo: Locks the Mediterranean - Red Sea Gate.
Neutral Turkey: Locks the Mediterranean - Black Sea Gate. Locks Europe - Middle East land Route.
Neutral Spain: Locks land route into Gibraltar or France.
The Middle East: hard to defend, hard to hold, but the gateway to Oil and to Soviet Russia.
Controlling the Mediterranean Sea allows a nation to attack any coastal area at will, overstretching an opposing army in garrisons across the coastline and thinning any defensive power into holding areas of importance or necessity.
If the Axis control the Mediterranean; it allows them to threaten Allied coastlines from Gibraltar & Morocco to Egypt to Syria, and Cairo: which is worth a 7 IPP collectively to the Allied Powers. Forcing the Allies to withdraw to at least three territories of Gibraltar, Egypt, and Cairo and surrender North Africa and the Mediterranean Islands and possibly even the Middle East to the Axis. The Allies must hold onto these key territories, accepting short term losses in territory to contain a breakout from the Mediterranean.
If the Allies control the Mediterranean; it allows them to threaten Axis coastlines from Marseilles to Taranto to Corinth, and Rome: the Kingpin territory for Italy. Forcing the Axis forces to shorten their defensive lines and surrender Africa and the Mediterranean Islands and possibly even Corinth to the Allies.
They are forced to protect at the very least four territories. Marseilles, Turin, Rome, and Yugoslavia from anything that sits outside of Gibraltar in SZ 79, which may become the main waystation for Americans on their way to Europe, posing a consistent and deadly threat, with nearly any invasion fleet enough to swamp any one territory (usually barring Rome).
These four garrisoned territories are added to those in Fortress Europe, and weaken the commitment to German operations in the East. The Axis powers are hemmed in from all sides. Crucially, these garrisoned units are often pinned into position until the Allies show their hand and invade at a place of their choosing.
Controlling the Mediterranean makes it too risky for the Allies to invade Europe, removing the need for most garrisons (barring Rome). Allowing for more resources to be placed in securing the Mediterranean.
If Japan is being belligerent; Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean.
Due to the limits of Allied Factories in the Pacific Theater and Africa, and the activity of the Germans on convoy routes and threats placed on British Homeland, the main threat direction will be from the Atlantic Ocean and not the Red Sea.
Both the United Kingdom and the Americans will come across the Atlantic. A glance at the map will show that the American coastline is two turns away from Gibraltar (for an Invasion Fleet), but only one turn from British shores. This means that any reinforcement or counterattack in Gibraltar can be achieved rapidly England quickly. Therefore; the ultimate Italian decision to attack will be a last minute one. It may also be that a British realization of the importance of Gibraltar may strengthen the Rock but weaken the Canal, allowing for an Italian attack there.
Gibraltar is City, a Coastal Territory, and Mountainous Terrain. This means that all Infantry type units will get +1 Defense on all combat rounds from the City and the attackers will suffer -1 Attack on all rounds of combat in the mountains, and (if attacking by sea) able to land only infantry and suffering Double Casualties in the first round. Devilishly hard.
Purchasing 1 Militia in, and shipping two Blackshirts and to Gibraltar each turn. These units will be rolling Defense 3 to the opponents Infantry Attack 1 on all rounds of combat. Gibraltar will become a bastion holding back the fleets of the Allies, and protecting the long southern coastline of Europe, saving both Germany and Italy from garrisoning all these territories.
Germany may build a Transport in the Mediterranean and also assist in the defense of Gibraltar by shipping troops over, sparing Italy’s already small income the financial burden and allowing them to focus on clearing the Mediterranean Sea of enemy ships and capturing Northern Africa or the Middle-East.
But, I would confidently say that an Axis conquest of Gibraltar will almost guarantee a counterattack by the Allies, making the defense of the Rock of greater importance then the conquest of Africa. Keep in mind also, that by holding Gibraltar, you gain a Wartime Bonus of 2 IPP, and often split the British Royal Navy in twane, allowing the Italians to push the British from the Mare Nostrom and gaining another 2 IPP. Add to this a little conquest of Cyprus will give a +1 IPP. In the face of this, I believe Africa can be relegated to a secondary importance, as any territorial gains made by the Allies extend their defensive lines and expose them to attacks of Italian choosing. The lost income is made up for by the gains in Wartime bonuses and Cyprus, and the British cannot overextend themselves by marching along the coast without American help.
Their is a very real risk of the Allies landing a force in Morocco and capturing the whole of North Africa. With luck, Vichy France will gain control of Morocco, preventing allied landings without a Declaration of War. But regardless, I believe that that is inevitable, and even if they do, as long as Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea is held, Italy will survive. American boots on African soil cannot threaten Rome.
Holding Gibraltar and Securing the Mediterranean Sea is of absolute paramount importance.
Gibraltar in Allied hands is the loss of the Mediterranean Sea.
The loss of the Mediterranean Sea is the beginning of the end for Italy.