Lone Canuck Publishing (2014)
Country of Origin:
32" x 22" historical map, 14 pages of rules, 4 pages historical commentary, 4 scenarios
Crossing the Moro (CtM) is Lone Canuck’s fourth mini-historical module, featuring the attempt by a Canadian battalion, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) to defend the just-captured village of Villa Rogatti from German counterattack as part of a major Allied attack to cross the Moro River in Italy in December 1943 (the Ortona HASL, which has been in development for more than 12 years as of this writing, takes place during this same attack, although later and elsewhere).
Though the title suggests a river crossing involved, no such animal appears in this product. Indeed, no water appears on the map at all, not even dew glistening on the many vineyards, as the scenario is set in the winter. Rather, this product is about attacking and defending a hilltop village. In this, the situation resembles some of the many historical modules by Critical Hit that are also centered on hill positions.
Crossing the Moro, like Lone Canuck’s other historical modules, is essentially a mini-module, consisting of a single historical map, a single campaign game, and only four scenarios. In these mini-modules the scenarios often seem like afterthoughts and the real emphasis is on the campaign game. Thus such products tend to live or die based on their campaign game–how interesting it seems in the first place and how well it plays. In CtM, the Moro is already crossed and Villa Rogatti taken by the Canadians. The Canadians seek to defend it from German counterattacks primarily from the 90th Panzergrenadier Division. Historically, the Canadians succeeded in doing so, but because of events elsewhere and because the Moro in this vicinity turned out not to be a great crossing point, ended up voluntarily withdrawing from Villa Rogatti. So, in a sense, the whole effort to take the town turned out to be rather pointless, and the deaths of the Canadians there rather senseless.
The key physical component to CtM is its historical map, which is dominated by the large 4-level hill on which Villa Rogotti rests, a hill covered in orchards and vineyards. Villa Rogotti has not changed much from 1943 to the present day and Google Earth may have been used to help create the map. The map graphics are nice enough, but they are too dark, as designer George Kelln went with standard hill graphic colors, meaning much of the key terrain is a very dark brown, against which orchards and vineyards do not show up very well. An alternate, lighter palette would have made this module more player-friendly. The map area is heavily dominated by vineyards. Today, at least, the area contains a much more varied array of agricultural activity than simply vineyards.
CtM comes with 14 pages of (black and white, hole-punched) rules, and 4 more pages of historical narrative, much of which is blatantly plagiarized almost word for word from Wikipedia. There are virtually no special rules that need to be learned; virtually all of the rules are simply campaign game rules.
The campaign game (or “Tactical Mission”) itself, also dubbed Crossing the Moro, is a very small campaign game, only 4 scenarios in length and depicting the actions of only part of a single day’s fighting. Essentially the PPCLI took the village in the morning and held off German counterattacks for the rest of the day. The campaign game skips the Canadian attack and starts with the German conterattacks (historically, the Canadians sat around the next day and withdrew that next night). Thus a very short stretch of time is portrayed here. In fact, some scenarios depict only a single hour’s worth of action (a scale that makes some of the fortification options a bit dubious).
The small size and lack of complex additional rules of the campaign game might make it a useful “entry level” campaign game for those people wishing to try a campaign for the first time.
The scale of the action is small. Players purchase platoons and sections rather than companies and purchase options are fairly limited for both sides (with slightly more options for the Germans). Both players roll for purchase points from the same table (with modifiers making it more likely that players who took heavy losses will get more reinforcements), so there is not a real ebb and flow to the campaign game in the sense of players deliberately getting greater or fewer amounts of purchase points at specific times. The only variations here are those of the dice.
CtM does come with scenarios, although barely. Lone Canuck makes it clear that these products are about the campaign game. Four scenarios are included with CtM. They are basically small scenarios that use a small portion of the map area.
- CM1 (Half-Dressed & Bleary-Eyed). This tiny scenario depicts an action prior to the campaign game, part of the Canadian advance up the hill towards the village. It is a Night scenario with 8 Canadian squads attacking 4 German squads with 2 LMG. The Germans get some fortifications. The Canadians simply need to get 5 VP up on Level 4 hill hexes.
- CM2 (Bucko!). This is basically a continuation of CM1, depicting fighting in the village itself. It is another Night scenario. It has 7 Canadian squads attacking 5.5 German squads. The Canadians must chase the Germans out of all village buildings.
- CM3 (“That Damn Gun!”). This scenario depicts the first German counterattack. There are straitjacket rules on the Germans to represent a lack of coordination. Thus, though the Germans have 10 squads, they may only move one die roll’s worth of them per movement phase except for those moving with a leader. The Canadians have 8 squads and 8 foxholes. Essentially the Germans must get 14 VP worth of troops into the Canadian perimeter to win.
- CM4 (Ruckdeschel’s Attack). The final scenario depicts a larger, late-day German counter-attack and is the closest thing CtM offers to a meaty scenario. It features 7 German squads and 9 Mk IVs, supported by a smidgen of OBA, attacking 8 Canadian squads with a PIAT and two Shermans. To win, the Germans must have at least 5 mobile AFVs and must control at least 12 building hexes (AFV cannot control them).
With only four smallish scenarios, two of them night scenarios and a third featuring movement restrictions, the scenarios do not really offer much additional value to CtM.
Crossing the Moro may be of most interest to players looking for a quick playing campaign game, one likely playable in a weekend, or for an introductory-friendly campaign game.