I sent the new British Airborne into action at the club facing Ben’s Italian paras. I used a Normandy list and ran the Airborne without bren guns as SAS. SAS are much the same as paras but get behind enemy lines which negates the -1 for outflanking (at a points cost). This action could have taken place in Sicily or in mainland Italy (in the latter case the Italians would be RSI). The British paras did fight in Sicily and Southern Italy, plus could have been deployed later in the war on the Italian mainland. The Tetratch was not used in Italy but had been used before (Madagasacar) and later (Normandy) so could also have been deployed there. The only downside to the Sicily argument is that it may have been rather warm for the Denison smock in Summer ’43.
The Italian list (my best guess at its contents) contained a lot of anti-tank but was short of boots on the ground.
We went for an attack-defence battle as these give the Italians some advantage as the defender. Ben won the roll to defend (75% of success) and gained 2 free defensive areas. These are the 2 squares of hedge with open backs towards the Italian baseline. The scenario we played required an objective close to the table centre to be defended. The free defences have to be placed with 12″ of the Italian baseline so were of only limited assistance.
The set up shows the only 2 Italian units allowed on board at the beginning of the game. The British could only deploy infantry units at the start. The hedges are dense terrain as are the woods on brown areas. The palm trees are soft cover but not dense. The ruin in the centre was played as hard cover not as a building. Troops in buildings melt like butter when hit with HE in Bolt Action, runined walls would give the defenders a better chance to hang around on the objective.
Troops start to move up, no British reinforcments on turn 1 and those units already on the board cannot run. Instead we go for a cautious advance. Italian units move on without a morale chack but are too far away to have much effect yet. Red markers are pins.
More probing forward. The artillery observer gets a fire call off, shown by the yellow marker. It does not come in until turn 4 by which time it has been gradually moved back towards the Italian edge to avaoid catching the advancing British.
Here is the Italian commander, medium mortar and a nifty armoured car coming on. The truck (a Ledo model) has a MMG whch it can fire while unloaded.
Turn 2 the Italians move up. One squad leaves the field to get closer shots on the paras at the edge of the wood who had been reduced to half strength by the huge gun on tracks at the back left of the image.. This did not prove to be a wise decision. The British squad in the open at left ran into close combat and wiped out the Italian paras.
The Tetrarch drove on, took a shot, missed and was blown up by the Italian anti-tank gun. The sniper to the left never missed a shot all game.
Off to the right field the British press ahead. The white marker is the ranging in of the Italian mortar on the jeep.
The armoured car moves up to hose down the British. Due to shooting partly across the hedge the British (6 left from 8 after fighting the infantry) get cover (base 3 +2 cover, moved, -1 point blank).
Lesser troops would have had it here but these are veterans, they get away with a pin. Turn 4 the first die is British, they activate, shed the pin and charge the armoured car (blood curdling charge helps but they are within 6″ anyhow). They get enough hits to knock out the armoured car and consolidate back behind the hedge.
The British contimue to move up and around the objective. The 75mm howitzer (out of shot of this image) has zoned in on it. The Italians within are taking pins. They rally (but can’t do anything else) then get pinned again the following turn. The Britsh off board artillery finally comes in and knocks out the anti tank gun. The truck is taken out by rifle fire. The morale of all Italian units is now down by 2 as they have lost 2 and more unit dice than the British.
This vehicle may be good against tanks but has only 1 weapon and is open topped. Against an infantry army it did well shooting 3″ HE but was a lot of points for the privilige.
Turn 5 is largely mopping up and moving around the objective. As charge range is 6″ in bad going the boys can’t get in this turn.
There are Italians in that ruin but not many of them.
The final layout at the end of turn 5 when the Italians conceded.
Looking back this was a game that was heavily slanted as soon as the lists came out. The Italians took a lot of anti-tank assets but the only British vehicles were a Tetrarch and jeep. The Semovente self propelled gun had no machine guns and was open topped meaning that it had to keep well back, even rifle fire could pin it. If I had brought a big tank (a Cromwell is the best to fit with an Airborne ORBAT) it would have caused me some concern but I had gone infantry heavy. The 225 points spent on it could have bought a little tank bristling with MMGs such the M14/41 at 135 points (3MMGs and a light gun) with plenty of spare points for more infantry.
The wheeled anti tank gun would have been better as some sort of howitzer. With only 2 infantry squads to hinge the defence around it was going to be an uphill struggle. The game took 2 1/2 hours including table and set up. It would have been interesting to swap sides and play it again to see if the Italians could have done any better. Looking at the British force the veterans kept on going, even shrugging off losing half a unit from a single 3″ HE shot. I have a PIAT, 2 recce jeeps, a 6 pounder and flamethrower that I did not use in this list. A potential army development would be another squad of paras and a Cromwell tank to give some more options if fighting at 1250 points.
From a gaming perspective the mixed SMG, rifle and LMG squads are hard to work with. All the models have the appropriate weapons but you have to get pretty close to the table to work out who has what during a game. In my other armies a squad is either all SMG or rifle/LMG with a sole SMG on the leader making it easy to see which one that is. Many manufactures supply British Airborne packs in a mix of berets and helmets (Black Tree and Wargames Foundry do either or) making it hard to build up units where only beret models have SMGs. Some distinctive flock or tufts on SMG bases look to be in order to more clearly see who is where.