The trick for the MTO is to need only a single invasion of the mainland, more than that and you are putting your ETO invasion timetable into jeopardy.
For players that haven't played a campaign game from '43 through the ETO invasion from the WA side, how soon do you start gathering forces, or rather, what is the latest you'd wait to pull a division you 'needed' in the invasion, or first month thereof?
I can see troop ship numbers, but don't really know how it equates to lifting divisions of infantry on D-Day. Do you have a threshold you watch for operating in the MTO?
If you only plan a single invasion, does that mean you plan to simply slog up the boot - sit tight - what next?
Area I is just too far into the Adriatic Sea.
Agree. I've swallowed almost the entire 8th Army before for trying to go into Foggia without supporting airbases.
However, invading north of Termoli to unhinge that defensive line once you have the Foggia airbases stocked up I think is a worthwhile consideration.
Area H has some good points. It is a peninsula - easily cut off and some nice ports that are hard for the Axis to defend. But the Axis are able to cut off the peninsula and force the Allies to lay siege to Tarranto if they spend any time at all in preparing for defending the area.
Area H - The Heel - is my favorite spot. As you said, the Axis can't defend in the clear terrain, with so much of it exposed to naval gunfire support, and depending how you lay your invasion beaches you can cover a lot of ground with the 4xCV beachhead modifier to hold on if the Axis try to stay and fight. You will probably need to get some of your air transport into Sicily so that all the paratroopers you want can reach.
Taranto isn't actually necessary for the break out because the neck of the The Heel is three hexes wide. You can claw your way along the north shore with TF support and threaten to encircle Axis defenders in Taranto and the hills NW. Tons of available airfields, and again if you plan your invasion beaches carefully you can end up with a large number of size 2 airfields right off the bat.
Works great in the Battleground Italy scenario, especially because the Luftwaffe level bombers are withdrawn around turn 5 or 6 (about the time you can be ready to make this invasion after hitting Sicily).
In the campaign you'd need to bring down some naval patrol assets from The Channel, and I'd likewise devote the long range fighters to escort naval patrol / air superiority to chew on the LW level bombers.
I've only got to play a handful of turns that included some rain since the .37 beta, but it appears that TFs contribute much more to disrupting LW naval patrol, and LW naval patrol capability appears to have been nerfed a bit (this could have more to do with the weather cancelling flights, I didn't examine the logs or follow at a high message detail and I think I've only seen 4 turns since the .37 beta as real life has been hectic lately).
Area G is great for cutting the supplies off from Sicily.
It's the threat of a landing here that in no small part impels the Germans the bug out of Sicily. Not knowing the location of just one TF from the start of the game means the German player has to keep an eye on holding open the neck at the top of Area G until units to the south have extracted. But you're right it is no road to Rome.
Area F is a bit better than G but also suffers from being easily cut off and defended.
I consider this area worse for the Allies. Farther from air support, and the Germans can setup a great defensive line backstopped with a depot across the middle of it on mountains. They can then fall back to the hills beyond the river at the northern end and lay down air interdiction and counter attack stacks that cross the river (forcing extra retreat losses from interdiction and fleeing across a river). This can be expensive for the Western Allies unless they commit massive strength, which the German player should be more than happy to see parked this far south and not waiting in ports to land somewhere else.
Area E (the historical choice) has some good and bad points.
Not much better than F for the Allies. You're really stretching your air support, with little prospect for building or gaining additional airfields nearby. Germans can bottle a significant force here with just two or three divisions while they reinforce/re-align.
Area D threatens Naples directly and that will usually also clear the toe and heel of Italy as the Axis defend against this threat.
I think a German player is making a mistake leaving anything in the toe after he has gotten the last troops across the Messina Straits. The Heel is a little different (threat of being cut off not as severe except in Brindisi).
This area has a little more breathing area to get troops ashore, but it faces many of the same constraints with respect to breakout.
I would only consider a landing in Area D or E if it was accompanied by landings on the plains around Foggia. Without some kind of threat behind the beachhead these landing sites are favorable to the Germans.
Some good Axis players are beginning to build a fort line behind the beaches to stop or slow any expansion.
I'm finally getting into some battles with my Axis MTO strategy, so I'll post soon with how it goes. I want opponents to hit it a few times and see how they respond. There are surely responses I haven't considered.
You're right, that area is cheap for the Axis to toss down a few early forts and begin digging in, but do it off the beaches so it doesn't carry a high cost (you're most likely going to get bounced by an invasion anyway).
Area C (the historical second invasion choice) definitely threatens Rome which makes Naples and Taranto harder to defend.
I like that it bypasses the historical German defensive positions to the east. But as you noted, it would be hard to undertake without the islands under control, which can present its own timetable hazards. Not the greatest breakout spot either, but better than anywhere else on south of it on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Area A seems to just suck people into it.
I would look at the A-B invasion zone as something to hit not as the first mainland invasion, but as part of the secondary hop after establishing in The Heel and pressing toward Foggia. Land in Area B with emphasis on isolating and taking the rough terrain NW of Rome and digging in on the river. As you attract Germans follow up invasions can come in Area A and Area I (north of Termoli on the Adriatic coast).
With the terrain you're holding in Area B you can backup the Area A & I landings with paradrops to cut off supply heading through central Italy rails.
Garrison requirements give the Allies a window to press the Germans in '43, but they need to stretch them. Maneuver is the Allies best weapon in the MTO, that's why I don't like the idea of just one mainland invasion. The real trick is you need to have the secondary hop planned out before the primary hop goes ashore, so you know what TFs to pull back to where/when.