Bolt Action Campaign Italy – Tough Gut

We cover the second part of the Italian campaign today and move on from the Soft Underbelly towards the Tough Guts.

Bolt Action Campaign Italy - Tough Gut

Almost a year after the first book, Campaign Italy: Tough Gut was released in August 2023, expanding the possibilities for the Italian forces even more. The first book covered the activities until Ortena in December 1943 and we pick it up again in the second supplement in January 1944 with their move further towards Rome through Cassino, until June 1944.

Campaign Italy: Tough Gut contains 176 pages, just like the first book and is available either as a print for 25 GBP / 30 EUR, or eBook / e-Pub for 20 GBP. The author is once again Robert Vella, who wrote the first part, Soft Underbelly, and Campaign book D-Day: Overlord.

For Tough Gut Warlord Games thought of a very special bonus miniature, Wojtek the Bear. He was bought as a cub by the Polish II Corp in Iran, and was officially enlisted as a solider with the rank of a private (to provide for his rations and transportation). Wojtek stayed with the II Corps during the war, serving with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in Italy, being involved in the Battle of Monte Cassino, where he helped moving crates of ammunition. After the war he retired from the Polish Army and lived the rest of his life in Scotland, at the Edinburgh Zoo.

Bolt Action Campaign Italy - Though Belly

What is it about?

While the first book, was about moving from North Africa, via the Mediterranean Islands towards Italy, this is about the invasion of Mainland Italy. And this is what the titles of these books are about. The Allies expected Italy to be the Soft Underbelly of Europe, but that proved to be false, it was instead a Tough Gut.

The book ended with the progress of the Western Allies up to the Gustav Line and battle of Ortona, and now starts with the operations to cross this line and move further to capture the Italian capital of Rome. This began with the landings in Anzio, which brought various forces of the British and US Americans on the western coast, behind the Gustav Line. This further lead to the four months enduring Battle of Monte Cassino, one of the longest battles in World War two, with heavy casualties on both sides. In May 1994 the Allies managed to break through the Gustav Line and capture Monte Cassino, and only being separated by the Senger Line from reaching Rome. However, the book ends in May with the Breakout at Anzio, and not with the end of Operation Shingle in June, with the capture of Rome.

With this the main focus of this book is Operation Shingle and the (four) Battle(s) of Monte Cassino, while covering the participation of the allied forces of US Americans, British and Commonwealth (New Zealand, Indian, Canadian, South African), Polish and French troops, with German and Italian forces on the other side.

Bolt Action Campaign Italy - Though Belly

First Impression

Unlike the first book, Soft Underbelly, Tough Guts is not organised in chapters regarding the campaign. You get all the narrative in a combined campaign overview, followed by the scenarios. Usually, you have this structured into smaller parts, for example Operation Husky, Race for Messina and so on. In this case the Invasion of Mainland Italy, the multiple battles for Cassino and the final road to Rome is covered in a prolonged introduction. Beyond that, other parts of the book have been structured differently as well. Of course, the new units for the various nations are structured in individual chapters, this covers the British including a vast coverage on the Commonwealth, US Americans, French, Allied and Axis forces of the Italians and the Wehrmacht. We receive new heroes, but they're not in their own chapter, but a sub-category of their nations new units. These new Legends of Bolt Action are Sepoy Kamal Ram VC (British, Indian Commonwealth), Corporal Wojtek, the Soldier Bear (Poland), Staff Sgt Audi Murphy and PFC William James Johnston Sr. (US Americans), General Umberto Utili (Allied Italy), Siegfried Jamrowski, Generalmajor Ernst-Günther Baade and Major Rudolf Haen (in StuG III G) (Germans) and Capitano Edoardo Sala (Axis Italy).

Regarding the new units, similar to the first book, I have the feeling they went a bit overboard. Partially they are not just divided into early, mid and late war, but even far finer. And I think in some cases, it could just have been handled with the theatre selectors. In addition, with the number of units the first book gives you, this is a very long addition to the unit entries. The Commonwealth receives new entries for the Maoris that fought in Italy, as well as Indian and Gurka Infantry Sections, Canadians, and two additions for the Polish with the Infantry Section and Command Subsection. The US/French receive 11 new units, from the 100th Nisei Battalion to North-West African Tirailleurs, and even the French Foreign Legion enters the game at this point. And while the Germans already received 18 (!) in the first book, gets another boost of 16 new units - 5 of these are vehicles, where the Tiger and Elefant probably could have just been marked as unreliable instead of receiving a whole new entry. In case of the Italians, the Kingdom of the South, has access to various CIL (Corpo Italiano di Liberazione) units, like the First Motorised Group, Paratroopers, Alpini and Bersaglieri. As for the RSI (Repubblica Sociale Italian), they have a few Anzio specific options, with an Officer, Paratroopers and Naval Special Forces. And similar to the first book, various generic units, most of them we've seen in the past, like chaplains, intelligence officers and mule teams or horse-drawn limber. A new addition is the super-heavy Forward Observer, covering the guns of the heavy cruisers in the Mediterranean Sea or German / Italian railroad guns.

To aid the scenarios and give you proper army lists for the battles, this book does not stop at spoiling you with new units, but gives you a heap of new theatre selectors. It is quite impressive to see, how in depth they went for the British / Commonwealth, as you receive an overview how to play Canadians, Indians, Scottish, Irish, Guards and New Zealand reinforced platoons, along with the info on national characteristics and the addition of new characteristics for Maori, Irish and Canadians. With further specialised selectors for the X Corps at the Assault Across the Garigliano, and various lists for the battles in Anzio and Cassino, up til the II Polish Corps for Operation Diadem and Operation Honker, for the approach onto the Gustav Line. But that is far from it for the Allied troops, the US Americans: from Reinforced Platoons of the II  and VI Corps, to Tank and Tank Destroyer platoons, the Canadian-US joint forces for Operation Diadem, among others. The French Expeditionary Corps and Italian Liberation Corps as US supported lists. On the Axis, the 16 new units get a lot of theatre selectors to be used in, obviously Fallschirmjäger Platoons for Cassino and Early 1944, Gruppe Ost or West for the Battle of the Thumb, the German counters on Operation Diadem with the XIV Panzer Corps and Blocking Group, and the final Defence of Rome - again among others. Italy has a special theatre selector for Anzio and Rome, as the Paracadutisti weren't supported by the forces of the RSI but the 1st Paratrooper Group.

Regarding the special rules and new options, as with the initial Italian army list, you get a lot of fortifications, bunkers and turrets. And as you might already assumed by the lots of involved nations, a reprint of the rules for multi-national forces.

Bolt Action Campaign Italy - Though Belly

After the 13 scenarios the first book suppled, Tough Guts adds another 10 to the Italian Campaign.

  • Scenario 1: The Barracks
  • Scenario 2: Battle for the Thumb
  • Scenario 3: The Gates of Hell
  • Scenario 4: Casino II: The Railway Station
  • Scenario 5: Counter-Attack at the Castle Hill
  • Scenario 6: Battle for the Ruins, the Struggle for the Continental Hotel
  • Scenario 7: Operation Revenge
  • Scenario 8: For the Freedom of our Nation!
  • Scenario 9: It's a Trap!
  • Scenario 10: Playing with the Big Cats

How does Italy - Tough Gut play?

As for the campaign, you have a lot of very interesting, asymmetrical scenarios. There is not a single open field battle, but various sieges and attacks on defence lines. And similar with the Invasion of Sicily, you have missions where you want to claim objectives and make progress into the city (or its remaining ruins). But you have access to battle hardened veterans and late-war tanks, the later might not be the most use regarding the terrain circumstances.

And my conclusion, identical with the first book, a very diverse gaming experience. Just the British already give you so many options, so many characterful ideas and possibilities for themed armies.

Bolt Action Campaign Italy - Though Belly

What's next?

As this review is a bit late, the next campaign book, Case Blue, is already released (and its review in preparation). Case Blue or Fall Blau, was the code name of the summer offensive into Southern Russia in 1942. The book covers the multi-national forces of Army Group South (with German, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, Croatian and Slovakian units) against the Soviet Red Army. To a certain degree the book is a "sister" to Campaign Stalingrad, as it extends the narrative on the southern regions of the Ostfront, and includes the battles in Sevastopol, Kharkov, Caucasus Mountains and Kuban region.

Beyond that, we only have rather vague rumours on what is coming in 2024 for Bolt Action.

Bolt Action Campaign - Case Blue


They put a lot of work into these two books, and if you already have the first one, the second part is a must-have, to complete the narrative. With the various nations involved in the Italian campaign, this is not only interesting for clubs to include a broad variety of forces (or start allied contingents for multi-national forces), but to certainly have a different endgame for late war gaming, compared to the "usual" narrative of D-Day and North Western Europe.

With the aspect of the terrain needed to play these scenarios, you should probably don't have a hard time to setup appropriate tables, compared to Africa or the Pacific. And beyond that, a table for the various battles of Monte Cassino is certainly an interesting project.

I don't need to spend many words on the quality of the Bolt Action supplements. You have a well-made book, with lots of information, illustration and artwork due to the combined resources of Warlord Games and Osprey. But one thing this second part surely didn't improve - it is a lot of new content, especially with the flood of new units and theatre selectors, I fear that this leads to a bloat of the game. While the mechanics are lean, keeping track of all the special rules, and slight modification for a '44, Anzio, February to March variant of units, slows done game play.

You will find something in Osprey books (CAM 134 - Cassino 1944, CAM 387 - Assault on the Gothic Line, MAA 353 - Italian Army 1940-45 (3) among others) and further books in the bibliography of this supplement.

Bolt Action is a brand of Warlord Games.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

Posted by Dennis B.

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