For the Allies, getting to Sicily is pretty straight forward – you have 20 LCs for invasions, a number of Marine-Commandos which are intrinsically amphibious [and thus don’t require LCs], a significant air transport capability and airborne forces. There are a total of 10 ports to capture and put to use by your 70 pts of Naval Transports – and the whole operation can be conducted under an air umbrella of significant strength.
The Allies have ample resources to go to Sicily, to reinforce Sicily once they have gone there and forward bases, both naval and air, to assist the land forces which have gone there. For example, given Allied air bases on Cap Bon [27:3407], Pantelleria and Malta, every port on Sicily, save Messina and Milazo, can be reached by 10 range Spitfires. So for the Allies, once they have decided to get to Sicily, it’s really just a question of mechanics – using your significant resources to move your forces in the most economical and advantageous manner. Certainly, the Axis can TRY to interfere with your mechanics, but their ability to do so is limited, due to your significant advantages over them with regards to naval and air power.
For the Axis, the situation is quite different. Their ability to get to, and off of, Sicily is quite limited AND subject to significant interference by the Allies. The Axis have four means of getting to, or away from Sicily, i.e. by rail, via the narrow straits, by air transport or by naval transport, let’s examine each of these in turn.
Air transport’s biggest limitation is that, except for the Me323D, air transports can’t carry Heavy Equipment. Thus to lift in a division, it must be able to break down [limiting your choices] and you have to get the HQ to the other BD components to assemble the division. Although there are a great number of non-divisional units w/o HE, their utility is limited by questions of support and stacking. In addition, air transport requires air bases to transport ground units to with some minimal capacity which the Allies should be bombing out. The transports also, of course, have to fly TO the air base and this can be interfered with by the Allies through CAP, interception and patrol attacks. Note well that flying at night is no panacea – you can’t escort night missions and the Allies have a number of long range Night Fighters with which to fly CAP, interception or patrol attacks too. Air transport can be a useful adjunct to your other transportation methods, but it is limited by a number of considerations and will not be decisive.
The Axis situation with regards to Naval Transport is even worse. Given that Sicily is entirely within an anti-Axis Danger Zone, any Axis naval movement to ports or beaches on Sicily is virtually suicidal. To say nothing of the Allied air forces which can interfere with your naval movement. The Axis have only one German LC and fifteen Italian NTs to use for all of their shipping needs and a limited number of Naval repls with which to replace any losses [and note that the Axis begin the game with losses already…] Yes, some NTs might slip through past the Allies air power, naval forces AND DZs, but it isn’t something you can rely upon, nor plan a campaign on. If something does happen to get from Naples to Messina or Palermo, rejoice! But don’t count on it.
The Axis have two rail connections with the mainland, linking Messina with Reggio and Messina with Villa san Giovanni. This is a tenuous link at best and one which can interfere with quite effectively. First of all, note that the Rail Ferries are Low Capacity rail lines for all purposes. This means that any unit crossing them counts for twice its RE size against capacity limits. And note also that all Combat Motorized already count double for RE size by virtue of being C/M. Thus a Pz XX crossing the straits would count as 12 REs of capacity against bot the Mainland Italian rail net AND the Sicilian rail net. Given that the Mainland Italian net has a capacity of only 40, and the Sicilian net has a capacity of only 10, railing even one Pz XX per turn is a significant drain on the Axis rail capacity. Given that the Sicilian net has only 10 REs worth of capacity, while the Pz XX costs as 12 REs worth of capacity, it’s obvious that to move even one Pz XX to Sicily will require that the Axis temporarily increase the capacity of the Sicilian net. The Axis can increase a net’s capacity by a maximum of 50% of its current capacity at a cost of 1 resource pt for each 10 REs of capacity, or fraction thereof. So, if the current capacity is 10 REs, the Axis can increase the capacity for the player turn by a maximum of 5 REs, at a cost of one resource pt. This would give them enough capacity to get that Pz XX to Sicily by rail, with 3 REs of rail cap left over.
However, this ignores the Allied air force. Each Railway Marshaling Yard hit decreases a rail net’s capacity by 2 REs and the Allies have four targets for RMY bombing missions on Sicily. Palermo, as a Major City can have two hits placed there, while Catania and Messina can each have one RMY hit applied to them.
Let’s imagine that the Allies achieve two RMY hits against Palermo. Each hit reduces the Sicilian rail cap by 2 REs, so with two hits the net’s capacity has decreased from 10 REs to 6 REs. For one resource pt, this player turn, the Axis can increase their Sicilian rail cap by up to 50% of current capacity – which is 6 REs. So 50% of 6 is 3, so 6 + 3 = 9, which is not enough capacity to move even one Pz XX on the net, or across the rail ferry. So even just two RMY hits on the Sicilian net will prevent the Axis from moving ANY C/M XXs on the net that turn. Given that your Med Strat Air Forces have virtually nothing else worthwhile to do in ’43 other than RMY missions, it’s axiomatic that this should be their only mission. Throughout Jul and Aug you have one Br Wing which can fly one RMY and one US Wing which can fly three RMY missions – per turn! This virtually guarantees you two hits, and probably more, per turn – using an asset which has little to do anyway.
But, you say, the Axis can permanently increase the rail capacity of the Sicilian net by “buying” rail cap with resource pts. True enough – on the very first turn even, the Axis could choose to spend up to 12 resource pts, increasing the permanent capacity by 4 REs. So now the capacity is 14 REs. Assuming 4 RMY hits by the Allies on Jul I ’43 [quite possible, even probable really] this new capacity of 14 is reduced by 8 REs to 6 REs… and we have the same problem still, no C/M XX can move on, or onto, the net. Even if the Axis spend the maximum one resource pt to temporarily increase the current 6 cap to 9 cap, they still can’t move even a single C/M XX on or onto the net.
But…but… The Axis can permanently increase the capacity again in the Aug I ’43 turn, that will bring the permanent capacity up to 18 REs, meaning if I temporarily lose 8 REs of capacity, I still have 10 REs of current capacity, and for another resource pt I can temporarily increase THAT current capacity to 15 REs, allowing me to move that single Pz XX on and/or onto the Sicilian net!
Yes – the Axis can expend virtually their entire resource pt allotment for two months, to alleviate their rail cap problems on the Sicilian net. The Axis only get 12 resource pts from the Germans, and 2 resource pts from the Italians, per MONTH. Have the Axis no other pressing needs for resource pts at this time? Is there no Atlantic Wall to build? No defence lines or port defences in Italy to construct? No air bases to build, no TFs that might wish to put to sea? No other rail nets that might need temporary increases [to get all of those units TO Sicily…]?
So yes, the Axis COULD spend virtually their entire production of resource pts for two months on the Sicilian rail net, but is it worth it? Given that if the Allies want to take Sicily – they will. Given that there are so many other more valuable [and longer lasting] investments the Axis could be making with those resource pts. This is one of those cost-benefit questions that one has to make for themselves. I’ll just say that as an Allied player, I can’t think of anything I’d like the Axis to spend resource pts on than Sicilian rail cap – I’d consider it a gift from my opponent.
In addition to all of this, the rail ferries also depend upon their terminal ports being functioning. So bombing out the ports at Reggio, V’ s’ Giovanni and/or Messina is worthwhile, since the Axis will not only have to repair any rail hits in the hex, but also repair the port to at least one less pt of damage than maximum damage, to allow the rail ferry to be used at all. Note well that if you can’t use the rail ferry for movement, then you can’t use it for tracing a rail element of supply either – thus you tie down at least four construction capable units every turn, and more if you run maximum harassment against the hexes they occupy. [With two harassment hits, any cons unit in, say, Messina, would have to expend 4 MPs to take a hit off of the port, and expend 2 MPs just for being in the hex. So you would need another cons unit to also repair the rail hit in the hex – and do the same in at least one of the Calabrian ports as well]. So that’s at least 4 cons units, per turn, tied down, not fixing rail lines elsewhere, not building forts or air bases elsewhere. Just another cost of remaining on Sicily. Not a huge cost, but its another example of assets being used in one place, that could be used elsewhere, potentially to more benefit to the Axis.
Finally, we come to the narrow straits. This is a transportation asset that the Allies can NOT shut down, but they certainly CAN interfere with it. The Allies weapon here is harassment bombing. Let’s imagine maximum harassment bombing covering both Calabrian ports as well as Messina. Crossing from Calabria to Sicily will cost 2 MPs for entering Messina [a Rough hex], two MPs for the narrow straits [+2] and 2 MPs for the harassment, for a total of 6 MPs to move from a Calabrian “Toe” port to Messina. To exit the Messina hex would require the expenditure of at least another one MP [to enter an adjacent Road hex] and two more MPs for the harassment in Messina, so three MPs to exit the hex, added to the six MPs expended to enter the Messina hex, for a grand total of NINE MPs to move to a Road hex adjacent to Messina from a Calabrian port.
Clearly, no one is going very far, or very fast, across these straits, IF the Allies expend some effort to interfere with the Axis here. And of course the Allies SHOULD interfere with the Axis here. Harassment is second only to the RMY missions in importance here. Note also that a C/M XX which begins the game deployed in France [even in Nice] can not even get to Sicily on the first turn, if the Allies do what they should do. During the pre-game phase, get your four RMY hits on Sicily [this is THE priority mission if you think the Axis want to stay on Sicily… or if you think that they want to get off of Sicily.] As shown above, the Sicilian rail net now has insufficient capacity to allow a C/M XX to rail onto or on that net – that means that the Axis can not use Strat Rail to move a C/M XX to Sicily – they don’t have the capacity required.
During the Axis Initial Phase of Jul I, the Allies get at least two harassment hits in the “toe” ports – the priority air mission for this player turn. Now trace the movement of a C/M XX from Nice to Sicily. Assuming NO rail hits between Nice and either of the “toe” ports [not a great assumption], the C/M XX expends 40 MPs [the maximum possible – if it uses Strat Rail to move further, then it can’t move in the Exploitation Phase] to get to 26:2920 [the first coastal Cliff hex south of Salerno.]Now in the Exploitation Phase, it can move to 26:3821 – one hex away from V’ s’ Giovanni. And there it sits throughout the Allied player turn – not defending an important hex, not on Sicily at all and given further harassment on the Jul II Axis player turn, most probably not even able to effectively intervene once it DOES get to Sicily… And remember that all of this works in reverse as well, when the Axis have to try to get OFF of Sicily – nothing but headaches.
To sum up, the Allies have a very powerful weapon in air power with which to frustrate and bedevil the Axis trying to defend [or evacuate] Sicily and it should be used to full effect. Prioritize your use of this asset – during the pre-game phase, Mission #1 is the RMY attacks on Sicily, mission #2 is rail hits at and near the straits [primarily on the mainland side], mission #3 is port hits at at least one of the three straits ports. As many hits as possible, given what you have left to work with.
During the Axis Jul I Initial Phase, Harassment, Harassment, Harassment. At an absolute minimum, two hits covering the “toe” ports and two hits covering Messina – this is well within your capabilities and something you should be doing EACH turn until Sicily is entirely Allied owned. [ Note that the Mountain hex in 26:3922 is an excellent hex for a multi-hex Harassment mission. Twenty bombing factors here gets you a 2 level harassment hit in the hex and in all adjacent hexes – which covers both “toe” ports, as well as four other rail hexes in the “toe”. Certainly, the Allies first choice for harassment in the “toe”…] For Allied turns, first of all, the RMY hits and after that, as many rail hits and straits port hits as possible. Whats left over can go towards Ground Support to keep the offensive moving.