Thursday, 23 February 2012

Game Review 18.02.2012 - Part 2: The Battle

Finally on Saturday morning everything was ready. Michael and me gathered around the table which a friend of ours had prepared. He arranged interesting terrain with the Italeri church dominating the eastern part of the board. After discussing the areal chracteristics (cover, movement etc.), Niclas prepared a interesting though historically incorrect scenario and explained the mission objectives:

British Mission
It's soon after the allied landing in Italy. The British spearhead was able to advance from the landing zone which lies somewhere westerly of the board. To secure the arriving reinforcements it is vital to conquer the village nearby to expand the beachhead (2). Additionally the allies will need a high-capacity supply line. Therefor the well supported road in the east must be taken (3).

Italian Mission
Although the Allies were able to bring the first wave of troops onto the beach, there is still a chance to baulk the invasion. Therefor it is vital to stop the allied advance and keep control of the village (2). Additionally the pressure on the landed troops must be enhanced. The Italian forces have to gain control of the hill in the west to install an artillery observation post there (3). This would open the chance to overlook the landing zones and range in long-range artillery.

The deployment zones and the mission objectives (yellow).

We preserved the adverse corners of the board for deployment. Michael's Italiens started from the north-eastern corner while my British entered the battlefield at the south-western end. We agreed to try some idea of "Fog of War" and fielded our units as small slips of paper. Those were marked with signs for infantry, wheeled vehicles and tracked vehicles but nothing else. On the back of course was noted the concrete name of the represented unit. To spy out a unit you have to establish a line of sight to it and pass a test depending on the largeness of the target.
After having set up the brave troops (and additionally some Italians...;-)  ) we rolled for initiative. Initiative is checked every turn and the winning player may decide wether he wants to play first or second. However the British fielded more NCOs than the Italians so they got a bonus and won the roll. I decided to have another cup of Earl Grey tea with my subordinates and presented the first turn to Michael.
The first surprise on this foggy morning...

The beginning of the game:
Italian pressure and British counterblast
Advance and firefight (yellow) during the first turns of the game.
Michael had deployed his 90mm AA-gun near the church. It was able to overlook the Northern part of the battlefield and its huge range was able to even cover the British deployment zone with fire. Therefor he decided to expose the gun and tried to clear up one of my units. He passed the test and I placed my 6pdr ATG on the table. Since I had appointed it "in readiness" I was allowed to shoot first. With trembling hands I parked my cup and took the D20. Fortunately the cold-blooded British gunner kept calm in this pernicious danger. He hit the Italian gun and blast it into pieces!
On the southern flank an Italian truck dashed over the road. It headed towards the cottage in the South and I was afraid that they might to install a strong defensive position there.
The other Italian troops just made smaller movements behind the church to reorganize the northern flank.
The cold-blooded British gun crew destroys the 90mm AA-gun.
Now baton was passed on to the British. I overlooked the battlefield and whished to be able to contact supreme command for a decent air strike. But no chance... The army had to manage the mission on her own. First of all I wanted to avoid that the Italians get into an orderly defense. So pressure on both flanks was the instrument of choice. A Rifle Section sprinted towards the cottage to establish an observation post there. Simultaneously the two Mortar Sections jumped off their Universal Carriers and set up the weapons. The 6pdr ATG stayed back covering the left flank while the Shermans advanced in the center. One of them reached the hedgerow beyond the field and took aim at the truck. The 75mm shell hit the vehicle and killed the driver and two passengers. But the danger was still given because the Italians passed the morale check. Very unusual...
The Sherman hits the Italian Truck and causes severe damage. Meanwhile the mortar prepare to finish the job...
However the British turn ended and initiative was determined again. Since the British won again I decided to play my second turn first. That gave me the unique chance to act twice in a row. While the British advance continued the Rifle Section took the cottage. They ranged in both Mortar Sections and four 3" shells filled the air with a whistling sound. One shell hit the Italian truck directly and the vehicle with the whole squad on the platform was destroyed.
During their turn the Italians tried to put away the counterblasts and tried to regroup. They gathered behind the church and prepared a counterattack for the next turns. To cover this attempt the Carro Commando advanced carefully trying to come into a good position the overlook the plaza in front of the church. He ranged in Italian mortar fire on the Sherman but the impacts skattered too far. No damage caused on the tank.

The Italians try to break out of the pocket

Initiative for turn three was won by the British again. Because the only visible threat was the Carro Commando I decided to pass the right to play first to Michael. As expected the Italians were not prepared for this twist. He continued arranging his troops in cover of the church but he wasn't able to develop a powerful breack out yet. He hid his left flank with smoke when the Semovente dashed through the bushes and attacked the southern flank. I piped down when it turn to the Sherman on the plaza and fired a 105mm shell at him. Fortunately the front plate was thick enough to withstand the impact.

Impressed by this strike the British slowed down their advance. They came to more infantry to support the armoured spearhead. The only significant blow hit the Italian Carro Commando which risked a bit too much. When the mortar shells covered the car in shrapnels its tracks were heavily damaged and one crew member died. The Sherman tried shot the Semovente but didn't penetrate its heavy front armour.

Afterwards the Italians raised even more pressure. The Lancia Lince scout car darted  out of the smoke and ranged in all four Italian mortars on the Sherman. Four heavy shells detonated around the tank and his drive was damaged. For the rest of the game he was limited to go straight forward or backward but he didn't suffer major damage.
The Lancia Lince drives down the road and ranges in mortar fire on the Sherman.
While the British tank crew recovered the Italians brought forward their attack. Defying death two Carri Veloce crossed the road and tried to create pressure on the British infantry on the right flank. Probably the flank would stagger when the Italians were able to run the rifle section away from the cottage since the Mortar Sections and the 6pdr ATG would be uncovered then...

The Carri Veloce bring forward their charge in front of the burning truck... and end up in mortar fire.
So when Michael passed the turn the British faced a severe danger on my right flank. Although the light armoured cars weren't able to hurt the tanks their machine-guns could be hazardous for the infantry, the mortars and the 6pdr ATG. And I didn't know what Michael was still hiding behind the church...

However I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and wanted to go straight for the decision!

The Daimler Mk. II armoured car rushed forward to outflank the Semovente. The 2pdr hit but and damaged the tracks. Not great but anyway the tank was more or less immobilized. Again the British used their 3" mortars and let the shells rain between the Carri Veloce and the Lancia Lince. All three vehicles took severe damage and the two light armoured cars were destroyed. Concurrently the last British charge began. The 6pdr crew attached the gun to their Lloyd Carrier and moved forward. The second Sherman as well as the Bishop rushed along the left flank and headed to the church. Infantry followed as fast as possible.

The British enforce the decision
The next Italian turn elapsed nearly without significant events. Because the road was completely blocked with wracks Michael had no chance to reinforce his left flank with vehicles. The Semovente wasn't able to turn because of the damaged track and was blinded by the burning Carri Veloce. An Italian machine-gun section entered the church and laid fire on the advancing British infantry. Combined with Italian mortars they scored 8 casualties and nearly wiped out a full British Rifle Section.
The British advance on both flanks facing resistance of Italian infantry in the church and in the Northern woods.
But the British continued their advance nevertheless. The Daimler Mk. II conducted mortar fire onto the Semovente and a lucky direct hit penetrated the thin top armour and destroyed the tank. 
The British mortar crew recalibrates their weapons to lay fire on the Semovente.... and hit devastatingly.
At the same time the remaining two Rifle Sections advanced in the center of the battlefield and on the left flank. The Platoon HQ follwed. Supported by the second Sherman and the Bishop they broke the Italian resistance in the Northern woods and headed for the open Italian right flank.

British infantry rushing forward...
After these breakthroughs the last turns went by rather softly. The Italians threw their last reinforcements into battle and destroyed the Daimler Mk. II. Despite this they weren't able to spin fortune again. Finally the last remains of the Italian forced retreated...

My first game in 2012 was really fun and we had a great time. Nevertheless Michael wasn't satisfied with the progress of the battle.
He really did his very best but some parameters just went against the Italians:

The Battlefield
 At first glance we thought the Italians might have a great advantage because they were able to cover behind the church and might conquer it as strong defensive emplacement. The game proved that it was more loss than gain. Since the British 6pdr gun was able to overlook the Northern flank Michael tried to carry the battle to the Southern part of the battlefield. After the road was blocked with wracked vehicles it was too narrow there to expand troops.

Technical Advantage
Although both forces completed 750 pts. The Italiens had technical problems. The British were able to field the Sherman tank which has a good armour and a reasonable gun. Most Italian tanks are equipped with outdated 47mm guns or even lighter guns. The only exception is the Semovente SPG which is available with 75mm and 105mm guns. Since only one model was available to Michael he only deployed one of them. Not enough to cover both flanks...
The other heavy anti-tank weapon was the 90mm AA-gun. Dangerous for Sherman and Bishop but lost in the very first exchange of fire...

Tactical procedure
Maybe  in some situations other decisions would have caused better success. The Italians did use too little smoke shells to blind the British forward observers or tanks. Perhaps that would have bought them enough time to advance with the infantry and attacks the British tanks in close combat.

Although Michael was deservedly a bit disappointed I hope he had fun alike. We played in a very relaxed mood and got the game played rather fast. For the next game I wish him better luck and a stronger force...

I hope you enjoyed this review. Albeit I tried to describe the game rather neutrally I wasn't able to leave my involvement behind all the time...


  1. The Italians were unlucky but it was a good read and lovely figures and terrain, I liked the slips of paper idea.....

  2. Ah, cool game! It looks like it was very fun and that's what counts. I also paint some Italians in the moment (for North Africa) and it's always cool to see them in games :)
    It would look much better if you would change the table, as it looks a bit like a golf course in the moment. If you want to add some special Italian vegetation check out my blog ;)

    Here's some inspiration if you need it

    1. Thanks for you comment. On the one hand your right, but the golf course look is a common problem I presume. Since this wasn't my table we played on, I'm just working on a new table which is more scenic but for reasons of flexibility it will have some green areas.

      However most of our games are set in Europa. Therefor we don't have an African or Italian board right now. Perhaps later...

      Thanks for your tutorial. Really helpful and easy. ;-)


  3. Excellent review with much life in it - love the way you discribed our little game, Stefan.

    Well, my honourable opponent tried to presend me and my troops in a good light but after thinking about the result for some days I have to admit: I made numerous mistakes.

    1. The position of my FlaK was to open. With the first shot I took too much risk.
    2. Fog, fog, fog - Concentrated too much on destroying his Shermans. Would be better do break the lines of sight. With fog my troops could fan out around the church and the squad in the truck maybe would had survived.
    3. Did not think about a change for initiative. My troops were too aggressive and could not react to Stefans double-turns.

    Don´t want to belittle Stefans victory, but I have still a lot of strategic things to learn ;-)

    Stefan, will you give me revenge with the Italiens again? ;-P