Saturday, February 21, 2015

One - Hour Wargames WWII Batrep: #8 Melee - redux

One playtest RAW just isn't enough, IMHO.  I also had some ideas about how to defend and attack differently, so I thought I should give them a second go.  This time, I deployed the Italian Infantry and the ATGs behind the hill, out of LoS for at least two turns.  As the Italian reinforcements arrive on T3, I figured they'd only fight for one turn outnumbered and the Brits would have to move to them resulting in the Italians getting the first shot.  Altho the Infantry would sacrifice the terrain protection [halved Hits] the overwhelming firepower of the British armor negates the protective cover.  The ATGs don't get any cover bonuses at all anyway, so blocked LoS seemed the best protection.  

Below, Turn 1 end.  Both Italian Units are against the hill, and altho that doesn't contest it I hoped their firepower and location would be enough of a threat to hold the British at bay. The British armor dashes towards the hill while their mortars [moving the correct 6" - the tanks are just for show, Crusader CS with 3" howitzers] slide right towards the hill.

End of Turn 2.  The mortars move again since they've no targets.  I figured they looked better behind the hill hull down, altho this could count as out of LoS since they are Mortars. Must keep up appearances!  The two armor platoons continue to the hill.  Clearly, they'll be on it hull down Turn 3.

Turn 3.  My 5yo son wanted to take a picture [Puhleeeeeze?].  So he went for the dramatic closeup!  The limit of the ATGs range is the end of the ruler.  British Tank 2 is "sideways" shown by the column formation, but this has no effect on its shooting.  It can be argued that the tanks are tightly deployed at the top of the hill to concentrate their firepower.  The LoS rules say that "other enemy Units" block LoS, but I'm thinking that it's a typo and should be "other friendly Units" block LoS.  Angle of shooting is 360, and measured from any part of the base.

Turn 3 end.  British armor on the hill.  As the Units have no facing, it doesn't matter that Tank 2 is in column. with one tank on the top of the hill.  The stands / tanks are just for show and the three-stand platoons are just marking the space of the Unit which is about 6x3". Italian tank platoons arrive as reinforcements.  Only shooting was British Mortars upon the Italian infantry, where they did 5 Hits. Note that Tank 2 is just out of the 12" range of the ATGs.  These could redeploy closer, but they'd be vulnerable to British Mortar Unit fire. 

Turn 4 end.  Tremendous firepower is put upon Brit Tank 2, which takes 14 Hits, but the hill reduces it to 7.  Return fire puts the hurt on Italian Tank 2 and the Infantry are feeling barraged at this point. Brit reinforcements charge up the road, two tank platoons and some Motor Infantry in trucks [strictly for show, they're played as Infantry per the rules].

Turn 5 end.  Good rolling helped knock out Brit Tank 2 despite the hill's protection.  But Tank 3 is now on the hill, and Tank 4 is about to drive upon it.  Conceding the high ground may have been a poor idea given the armor-heavy attacking force.  Not in line with the books force matrix,but at the moment it's what I have.

Turn 6 End.  Italian Mortars and Infantry 2 arrive.  They lose Tank 2.  ATGs are in range of Tank 4, but the hill protects them from the concentrated firepower of the entire Italian force and they only take 9 of the 18 Hits. Brits do a little damage to Tank 1 also, sparing Italian Infantry 1 as they use the Mortars to help finish Tank 2.  
Both sides have lost an armor Unit, but the Brits have three more!

Turn 7 end.  No need to maneuver at this point.  Italians knock out Tank 4, but lose their Tank 1. Infantry 1 takes another barrage putting them at the brink.  The Motor Platoon probes up the roadway to challenge the ATGs at the request of their armored brethren.

Turn 8 end.  Italians are in tough spot.  Fighting against armor protected by the hill and infantry in a pass, they aren't able to see or fight effectively enough.  They take a lot of Hits from high rolls and lose Infantry 1, while the ATGs and Infantry 2 get pummeled.  In return, they scratch the paint off of Tank 1 and put some more Hits on Tank 3.

Turn 9 end.   The Italians gain speed down the slippery slope of defeat, losing Infantry 2 and almost losing the ATGs.  The Mortars are fine but they aren't that useful against the threatening armor.  I should've shot them at the Motor Platoon in the pass, but not only did I forget but the constant threat of armor platoons had me attempting to roll up against them instead of using them against the Infantry against which they're much more effective.  Brit Tank 1 enters the valley to threaten both the ATGs and the Mortars since they were out of range of both.

Turn 10 end.  Italians lose the ATGs and any hope of contesting the hill.  They get Tank 3 to 14 Hits, but can't seal the deal.  The Mortars only have 1 more turn of life, but could spitefully knock out Brit Tank 3 if they don't botch the roll!

End of game, Turn 12. Mortars wiped out with 16 Hits.  But they took Tank 3 with them by rolling a 6. Final count is a 6-3 win for the Brits, who lose three tank platoons.

Analysis.  Another fun and thoughtful game.  The concession of the hill itself to protect the original Italian defenders worked in that it preserved those two Units longer.  But the high speed of the advance and the power of tanks hull down on the hill were too much to overcome. While neither force is legal, the hill itself is a powerful position to concede to armor.  But if the Italians sit upon the hill and contest the victory condition, they lose two Units quickly British firepower.  If they are on the hill, would the Italian armor be able to get into the hill quick enough to hold it? Overall, there's some tough choices for them to make.

It would help them a lot if the hill was terrain that gave a cover advantage to infantry. Historically, that's an option as the plateau is meant to reflect the rough terrain of a jebel - a relatively simple scenario change.  

These 1HW: WWII rules are a fun, fast game.  If one accepts the many things left out, it does deliver a realistic series of decisions for a company commander within these limits. The overall deployment, plan and movement of platoons is what the player controls while the rest is controlled by the dice.  In this sense, it is a lot more realistic than a much more complicated game like Flames of War played out with the same limitations.  In the execution of plans and period feel, it is not as good as FoW, since I think the smoke and assault are essential parts of a WWII plan, among a few other details.

Still, this is an excellent game to introduce friends to the hobby.  If they like history and games then they will enjoy the gaming spectacle and speed of play and the tactical options and decisions that _are_ offered.  They will also like that it isn't tedious and the action moves along quickly.  So a "highly recommended" with just a few changes that I'll cover in another post.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One - Hour Wargames WWII Batrep: #8 Melee, p.2

The rules are given an overview in my January 27th post here:
Question is - how much humble pie will I have to eat after this playtest, if any??

The Batrep part 1 with the scenario is in the preceding post.

Below picture. The situation from the approaching British point of view. Infantry in the woods [take half Hits].  ATGs on the hill [they get no benefit from the woods or the hill - too big and easy to see?].  Two objectives at the pass just for show.  The artillery to the back left will enter Turn 3 [it's sitting on board for show].  British lined up along the right edge.

Start positions, Italian angle below.  The artillery [Mortars] actually start just off the edge where they are positioned, forgot to take them off for the picture.  The Italians start with two Units. I chose Infantry and ATGs hoping they'd hold off the expected armor onslaught for a few Turns.  This may have been an error as Tanks are the best counter to Tanks in 1HW.

End of Turn 1.  Italians have the first move, but there wasn't any reason to re-position and nothing to shoot at.  This is probably a scenario error that should be corrected.  The Tank platoons cut left.  Rulers show the 6" by 3" "stands" that I don't have.  Instead, I deployed all the stands on about a 6" frontage. The howitzer tanks are acting as the British Mortar platoon, but I forgot they only move 6" a turn - they sure _look like_ tanks!  So they took up position behind the hill a turn early but then again I wouldn't have put them behind the hill if they were Mortars since they get no benefit from it, only Tanks on a hill get a half-Hit benefit. So it was a wash either way.  
As there's no moving and shooting in the rules, the Brits couldn't shoot turn 1 either.

End of Turn 2.  No movement and all fired.  The infantry managed to roll a '5' inflicting three Hits on Tank 2.  But the combined firepower of two Tank platoons and the Mortars [who get d6+2] was pretty brutal, and even being in the woods resulted in eight Hits, halfway to heaven!  One problem is that with the ranges of Infantry, ATGs and Armor being the same, one can't position ATGs [or any Unit] to give supporting fire.  And since there's no short-range shooting there's no reason to get close where supporting fire matters.  Plus there's no hidden Units so you can't accidentally wander into the range of defending Units.  One just picks the right angle and blasts away on an isolated Unit.  So far very much like Flames of War [FoW] in terms of the decision processes of a player.  However, tactically FoW has Gone to Ground, Pinning, and Smoke that affect the execution, among other things.

 *     *     *     *     *

End of Turn 3 above and below.  Italian Infantry 2 arrive on road in Trucks.  Note that the Trucks are just for show in this case.  The Italian artillery [Mortar Unit] is now on the corner of the board at top left.  Italian shooting by the Infantry was ineffective.  Their attack roll is a d6-2 v. Tanks, so the '2' was zero hits.  The Infantry and Mortars that entered as reinforcements cannot shoot on the move.  Meanwhile, the Brits concentrated three Units again on the Infantry and did 9 Hits by rolling very very well, but they'd have had to roll poorly to permit the Infantry to last another turn in the woods, anyway.
Italian Bersaglieri "advancing to the rear."  What the Infantry in the trucks think, I don't know since there's no morale rules!  We left some clean foxholes for you guys...

End of Turn 4 below.  Italian Infantry drove up behind the hill.  The ATGs did good work against Tank 2 but took a lot of Hits somehow.  Obviously I messed up since the Tank Units can't shoot after moving, so the ATGs should have two Hits from the Mortar Unit. Entering Tank Units 3 and 4,and an Infantry Unit in trucks up the road [again, the Trucks are just for looks].  The Brits call their Infantry "Motor Platoons", btw.  Again, rulers show spacing.

End of Turn 5.  Italian Infantry Unit seeks the woods and cover.  ATGs do some more damage to Tank 2.  Tank 3 and 4 begin to outflank the woods, threatening the Italian infantry in the open while the Motor Platoon dismounts and advances upon the unoccupied woods - surely a good plan for both Infantry?  Maybe not - Infantry in the open get crushed...

End of Turn 6.  Italian Infantry 2 stays put and shoots Tank 3, while the ATGs desperately seek to achieve something before they get wiped out this turn.  They roll poorly and get Tank 2 up to 13 Hits, but don't destroy them.  Still, they are one shot away from destroyed so Tank 2 pulls back hoping to be used for some small purpose in the future.  The ATGs get seen off while the Italian Infantry 2 get slammed by tanks and Mortars.  However the Italian Mortar Unit did good service, rolling a natural '6' +2 v. Infantry, and putting the hurt on the Motor Platoon advancing on the empty woods.  Italian Turn 6 reinforcements arriving at the top, two files of tanks advancing at a 6 x 2" front.
Above, British Tank 3 to left outflanking Italian position.  Tank 2 center rear trying to stay alive with 14 of15 Hits!  Tank 4 is shifting right to join Tank 1 in the Big Push to counter the Italian armor.  Note that when you can't move and shoot, the stationary Unit effectively gets to shoot first without any special rules.  So you need to think a turn ahead as to where you want to contest the ground and get there "firstest with the mostest". A very simple way to handle a reality that I messed up v. the ATGs, but live and learn...

End of Turn 7.  Italian Tank 1 and 2 continue to advance and threaten the British right flank. Infantry 2 occupy the woods while the Mortars Hit the advancing Motor Platoon.  British Mortars hit Infantry 2 for three more.  British Tank 1 and 4 swing right against the Italian Tanks, while Tank 3 advances to wipe out the Italian Mortars.  Tank 4 hides near the hill at bottom right, trying to stay alive for any useful purpose.  Stupid place to put them, really.

Top of Turn 8.  Italian Tank 1 and 2 don't move and shoot instead - they put the hurt on Brit Tank 4, doing 12 Hits total!  Infantry 2 routs the Motor Platoon which dashes back to their trucks for a quick exit back to base for a brew [the Desert Rat sludge called 'tea' elsewhere].

Bottom of Turn 8.  British reciprocate putting serious hurt on Italian Tank 1, and 5 Hits on the Mortars, and rout Infantry 2 despite the cover of woods. Brit Tank 2 creeps out back to the road, hoping to shift left while the Italians have their attention otherwise occupied.  This actually isn't the case, as a game without pinning and morale always rewards total elimination of a Unit when possible.  But the Italians are well out of range...

 *     *     *     *     *
End of Turn 9, above and below.  Italians lose Tank 1 and the Mortars are looking a little shaky.  Brits lose Tank 1 and succeed in hiding marginal Tank 2 behind the woods.  Italian situation not looking good.  The Brits have two intact Tank Units and the Mortars, and one weak Tank Unit.  The Italians have one fresh Tank platoon and some battered Mortars.

*     *     *     *     *
End of Turn 10, above and below.  The Brits aggressively re-position Tank 3 between the Italian Tank 2 and Mortars, threatening both.  Altho they cannot shoot this turn due to moving, they are fresh so can withstand attack from the Italian armor, forcing it to either move or face destruction next turn.
End of 10, above, battered British armoured platoons hide.  The Italian mortars have a LoS from Italian Tank 2 at British Tank 1 to the right altho the Tank 2 at the hill is quite safe. The Italian Mortars are d6-2 attacking them but why not? At 13 Hits a roll of 4+ will result in the last two Hits, wiping them out, 50% chance, go for it!.  A big roll and...
A natural '6' but ON THE FLOOR!!  House rules mean this is a re-roll, and of course that roll is a '2' and there is no effect.  Note to self, do NOT miss the table on important rolls lest you waste a '6'!  ARRRGH!
*     *     *     *     *

End of Turn 11 above.  The Italians re-positioned themselves but took withering fire while doing so, and are up to 9 Hits.  The Mortars rolled a natural '6' which helped but Tank 1 rolled a 3+2=5 which was even better.  Tank v. Tank combat in this game is pretty deadly, by design.  Meanwhile, the British Tank 3 has positioned itself both on the objective and with a terrain advantage [half Hits].  This is a significant threat and a winning maneuver.

Turn 12, the end.  The Italian Tank 2's attempted dash resulted in the destruction of British Tank 3.  But despite a total miss by the Mortars, the Brit Tank 4 rolled a natural '6' for 8 Hits on the heroic Sons of Italy, putting them well over 15 Hits for destruction and a win.  Note that a '1' would've resulted in 3 Hits, putting them at 12 total.  But there still wasn't anywhere for the Italian armor to go, and the British Tank 4 and Mortars would've eventually knocked them out.  Probably British Tank 2 with 14 Hits would've been lost in the process.  So little chance for a win at that point, but worth a try.  Better to go down swinging, eh?

Overall impression
So I will say that my initial impression is that it is fun to play this game.  Most of the decisions I had to make made sense, a few needed thoughtful justification, but it was pretty realistic overall, as long as one accepts that one is a company commander, and not also the platoon lieutenant and gunner Snuffy.  I did feel like I was making decisions at the right level such as "go there, engage the infantry in the woods" etc.  It was quite a relief to not have to micromanage the battle.

Amazed at how the decisions presented to the player generally were very similar to those in a big, complicated game like FoW, altho the options for tactical play were much more limited.  The subtle modifiers for things like Gone to Ground, close range, Veterans, etc, just don't exist. Interestingly, they are the things that add the most realism for the least complexity in FoW.  All the blather of details and options don't actually change the game much, and one still usually loses on basic tactical concepts that are forgotten in the heaps of modifiers, special rules, etc.  But the core of IGOUGO and the d6 are all there, so the decisions the player faces are very similar to a FoW game.

It is worth remembering that the Infantry Units contain LAW and MAW such as light ATGs, plus HMGs etc, attached and integral to them in this game.  The ATG Units are therefore heavier ATGs that don't integrate well.  I think they therefore need a longer range of 24", and the Tanks need a longer range of 24", but it should be substantially penalized not because the guns aren't accurate but because it's hard to see and identify small targets in the heat of battle at a long distance, telescopic sights notwithstanding.

I also miss there being an assault mechanic.  While this mainly represents point-blank fire and hand grenades rather than the bayonet, it is both realistic and useful.  As there is a Hand-to-Hand mechanic in other rulesets of the book, it will be easy to steal it.

One important thing to note is that the force composition I used was based upon what I had and how good it looked.  Of course I do have more infantry stands but they're continental German, and I at least wanted desert stands for the desert.  The typical force composition is below.  Note that the requirement is at least half infantry, and in the 1HW force matrix you roll randomly for the force you have, and you can also roll for the scenario. A good challenge to not be able to pick every detail of a force, and it will certainly help you to be a better infantry tactician!  

Force composition
3-4 Infantry
0-2 Mortars
0-2 ATGs
0-2 Tanks

OK, so these were better than I thought!  While there are definitely a few things that I think are needed, it's not as much as I thought.  This will definitely require some consideration and kicking around.  I'll definitely play this exact scenario again, and I have to admit it motivates me to paint up some British infantry and guns that were languishing in boxes! And getting us motivated to play is an important part of any set of rules, is it not?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One - Hour Wargames WWII Batrep: #8 Melee, p.1

Well, it's time to give the WWII rules a try. While they are written well the mechanics seem very limited and I'm dubious of their historical "feel".  Overwatch / opportunity fire, and suppression / pinning are basic tactical results sought on the modern battlefield and these are not present in the design.  Conversely, the IGO-UGO and accumulating Hits mechanics seem to lack the dynamic interaction of this period.  But my policy is to give them a play or two RAW, seeking to understand the present design better and articulate what I don't like. 

Not to mention the fact that NT has proven me wrong before, so it's worth showing some humility!

I decided to pick a scenario I already know well and have played several times.  #8 Melee is a "grab the center objective" scenario with sequential reinforcements as shown below: 
My changes are to make the objective a pass, put it closer to the center of the table, add a small hill at the Attacker entry point, and to angle the battlefield on a longer table [3x4']. 
I'm using my best figs and terrain as I want the game to look good, even in playtesting. 

Cruds will roll!  The force is _not_ in accord with that which NT has in his force matrix on p.64, but it's what I have available.  Tank heavy, yes, but not an atypical desert force.  In the front right is the command troop, front left is the support platoon of two howitzer-armed Cruds with the 2iC.  Then three platoons of regular old Cruds, and to the back right a platoon of motor infantry with 15cwt trucks.  Yes, the infantry are borrowed from the Italians, haven't finished my motor platoon yet.  All are Old Glory except for the resin 1-piece trucks, and the two howitzer tanks, which are all Battlefront.  For purposes of this match-up, the howitzer tanks will be mortars.

Italians take the field.  A mortar platoon in the back [75/18 Howitzers], ATGs in front of them [ATRs actually], two infantry platoons [one with trucks] and two tank platoons [M13/41 tanks] to the left rear.  This is not a legal force in the p.64 matrix, it'd need one more infantry platoon exchanged for any of the other three.

How to put onto the table?  As the rules call for a 4-6" frontage, I could do two stands at 4x2", but I think three at 6x2" looks better.  With the rulers, you can see that stands deploy well on that frontage for a wargame - still hopelessly close together for real life!

So, aside from the force composition, which is short on infantry in both forces [3-4 infantry platoons are the norm] we are very close to what NT has prescribed.  Since both sides have extra tanks and less infantry, I'm hoping that it all cancels out in the end.  Also, these forces are a bit more representative of a desert battle I think, where a lot of offensive action and reinforcements are mobile armor forces.

What happens next?   Tune in to p.2 and find out!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Italian Carri Company - Core platoons featuring the mighty M13/41!

Actually as modeled, they are the shattered remnants of a _battalion_ from the Ariete armor division, whose numbers now equal company strength.  This was quite common towards the ends of battles for all the belligerents.  Companies would be down to 3-5 runners instead of 10-16, and battalions would be company sized.  I did this b/c I like the story line behind it and it is easier to track the three platoons on the table with the different colors.  If they were an entire company of blue the platoons are only differentiated by little white lines on the color band, which is hard to see!

The Ariete ram's head is on some of the tanks.  The three platoons have three, four, and four tanks for the yellow, blue and red companies of the battalion, with the HQ tank bearing the battalion decal of red-blue-yellow.  The platoon and company command tanks have the commander figure, of course, and there's AA MGs on a couple of tanks per platoon.  As my original intent was to model an EW company only the command tanks have the radio antennae and the company commander is using a signal flag.  It was hard to find out what colors or patterns were used, so they may not be right.  At this point I should just add antennae to all the tanks as they look more MW anyway.

The tanks are Old Glory Command Decision packs [explaining the 12 as they come in packs of three] and I could've gone for a larger FoW company of 15 total tanks but felt that fewer tanks with better support platoons was better for FoW.  The Tenente Pascucci tank to front right is a BF model for MW.  I added antennae and AA MG to that one.

Altho the tanks are classified as medium by their builders, by MW they are actually light tanks.  In EW they have good armor but the mechanical problems and training quality isn't very good.  Add to that the fact that Italians didn't have radios in all the tanks and you can see where the problems will begin...On the plus side you usually have numbers or cost [cheap points] and sometimes a quality edge by MW. They are also strong in MGs, with double hull MG, a turret and sometimes an AA MG. In FoW, the entire force drops 66 MG dice, nothing to sneeze at!

Entire company with yellow, red then blue platoons.  Front right are the commander [with flag] and the BF Warrior tank. Back right are BF abandoned vehicle marker figs, which I really like to have instead of the plastic chits.  It really adds more feeling to the "Bailed Out" status.

Closeup of the Yellow Company commander.  He's most likely an OG LMG kneeling figure, can't remember. Pascucci has a moustache and a blue ribbon for the Italian valor medal. Double layers of spare tread are around the turret.  This is actually from a real photo I've seen on line.

 Closeup of Blue company / platoon.  Peter Pig tank commander is in proper uniform.  Pretty different from the Old Glory infantry figs in sun helmet, but there wasn't much respect for uniform in the desert anyway.

And nice closeup of the bailed-out crew figures.  A couple look wounded and a couple look ready to fight or run.  Nice enough figs.  They are mounted on bases that cost 1 cent each [U.S.] to give them some heft.

This company was a pleasure to work with.  The Italians add a nice dimension to the fighting with their variety of gear, training and performance.  You can field large numbers of mediocre troops, small batches of elite paratroopers and raiders, and plenty in-between. Allied propaganda [and racism] gave them a bad rep that lasted after the war.  Italians surrendered in large numbers due to poor leadership and preparation in 1940, and they were branded cowards.  When tens of thousands of British and American troops surrendered in the early days of the war, they were called martyrs - winners write the histories.  

By 1941 and 1942 their performance in theater had substantially improved and they often fought well.  However, there were plenty who just didn't want to fight the British and the U.S. [whom they admired and where often had family residing] or didn't want to fight at all. Anyway, don't be afraid of fielding their forces.  Do some research, read the history, and get informed.  Most of all, have fun!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Support Platoons - 'cause everyone needs some Amici

When one is not fielding a force of supertanks, it is essential that support platoons are at hand to help with the main effort.  Thus the key for a Carri commander is to use his many platoons wisely.  Below are just a few of the options, all the ones I have ready and painted for the desert.

These guys became my light AA on trucks, acting as either the portee or just towing and unloading for when I didn't have Italian trucks.  So these have seen a bunch of uses and service.  Light AA is one of my favorite "must-have" items in FoW.  With its high RoF it is dangerous to infantry, and with FP5+ is can be dangerous to light armor, and of course it is also AA!  Plus it's usually pretty easy to move around.  Don't leave base without some!

My Autoblinde platoon.  Three are Old Glory and the command vehicle is BF.  The standing observer is a common pic for all forces in N. Africa.  Since the desert is so flat standing upon a vehicle - sometimes with a ladder acting as a tower - just makes sense.  First to observe often wins.  These vehicles are wheeled which makes them fast in the desert, and their guns and MG are adequate.  They also have a strange rear-shooting MG.  The BF one is nicest, but it cost almost as much as the bag of the other three!  The sand trays and portage are BF, the observer is OG.  The antennae was scratch-build 5-arm job, again taken from a pic.  It was German in origin, I think.  Unfortunately, the other prongs fell off from handling and I haven't fixed them yet.

Semovente platoon and command vehicle.  Again, the OG ones are the three in back and the command vehicle.  The front right is BF.  I prefer the BF model overall, as it was a cleaner casting with nice details.  Remember that all OG Command Decision come in packs of 3 vehicles or 50 figures, so you will save lots of money but always have some extras.  A second command vehicle is knocked-out in the objectives post.  It came out quite well I think.  The last is awaiting suitable inspiration, but it'll probably end up in grey-green continental scheme as a command post for an armored unit.

AAMGs are Bredas from BF accessories as is the portage.  The sighting sticks are piano wire and add some color to the vehicles, as does the red flag.  Since they all have radios, the commander doesn't _need_ to use flags, but perhaps he is trying to maintain radio silence?  He's OG and the crew are all Peter Pig.  Antennae are bristles from a dusting brush, they work very well and never break off or stab anyone.  

This platoon is very important b/c for the power of the gun, the thin armor and lack of turret make it still a cheap platoon.   While they cannot take on Shermans toe-to-toe, they can scare them a bit and cost half as much.  Their 3+ FP makes them a menace to infantry, but they are vulnerable to infantry attack since they've only an AA MG, just like StuG IV's.  However they don't have that FA7.  At FA4 they are vulnerable to even light ATGs, something to keep in mind.  They really need to be held back to attack from the longest range possible, preferably from a hull-down position.  If Veterans and hull down at Long Range they are tough to hit, which helps a lot.

Two German Opel Blitz trucks and two British, all "acquired" by the Italians.  All have some Italian markings upon them.  They are all the solid resin BF ones, and as you can see paint up just fine. They've provided the mobility for the Bersaglieri platoon my Carri Co usually has, and if fielding Bersaglieri are still useful to have a mounted platoon.  While trucks are useless to close with the enemy, if kept out of LoS they are fine for movement except when airplanes are around.  And even then, as long as they don't bunch up it's not too bad.

As usual, the Italian platoons here are a lot of fun to research, paint up and play.  They usually win for me mainly because people underestimate them or have problems with the numbers.  While their performance can be erratic, in a points game they are a force to be reckoned with.  With their unusual equipment and a lot of weak-performing gear they are an underdog.  However, they are a real menace to certain forces, especially infantry and light armor.  When played properly, they provide even experienced players with some problems.  My worst losses are to FoW veterans who show up with a nicely balanced infantry company with some medium tank support.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Things that go "BOOM!" in the night: Artillery battery and more...

The battery is previous edition Battlefront from about 2005 or so.  At the time, they were between runs of Italians, and the many cool items that we have now just weren't available, so you had to make do with whatever you could scrounge of the remaining Italians or use another company's figs.  The below set is from a blister pack of three 75/18 howitzers, and during a Peter Pig order I got a French 75 to represent the many guns given to the Italians after the French collapse.  This completed the battery.  Why there were three-gun blisters for a four-gun battery is a mystery that makes sense to Battlefront!

Anyway, I like to give my Units some history, drama and color.  I use pictures from Google.images, where you can easily find lots of great pics, many of which have tons of period flavor.  This helps make a boring old HQ or Staff team a bit more fun.

Below is the four gun stands, the HQ and Forward Observer in the middle, and the Staff team to the right.  The models were a bit soft and I had to get a pack of Peter Pig gunners as well, of course.  I mixed them all up and spent a lot of time cleaning up the soft BF models and cleaning mold lines and flack.  The Peter Pig items were much cleaner and needed very little work.  As always, I highly recommend The Pig - More Oink, please!

Close up of French gun, with mix of PP and BF gunners.  The bases were spray painted with this odd textured paint which makes a great "frame" for the base.  I leave it visible around the beveled edge of the BF base.  The ground is Elmer's wood fill with play sand, kitty litter rocks, and foam bushes, probably model railroad ones.  I imitated pics I saw of the desert, where little clumps of stuff seemed to cling together anywhere there wasn't just soft sand such as dunes.  The helmets have a hand-drawn imitation of the artillery stencil that was spray-painted on, I used a micron pen and hand drew them.  One member of the HQ has his fascist black shirt.  He could be a die-hard fascist, or he could've won the spare shirt in a card game - you decide!

Staff team and BF gun closeup.  The odd-looking hoop is the radio's antennae.  I like that it is so visible and that they match.  Little oddities like that give the figs character.  The radio I found a pic of on line, so the black face with silver / white dials is accurate.  The map I drew by hand with micron pens.  Later, a friend showed me real maps he'd reduced to 1/100.  They were amazing!  Still, it is sometimes more fun to draw and make it yourself.
Italian artillery is quite decent, and provides essential fire support for the light tanks.  As a light company, a Carri unit is quite dangerous to infantry and other light armored companies, but struggles against any medium tanks.  Fortunately, the British don't have any!  At least not until Mid-War.  Then the American Lend-Lease gear arrives.  While I'd still say the Italians are a viable force in MW, they definitely need some support from long-range guns that hit hard.  I do not glue my guns onto the bases, and I have replacement guns for the stands, including the 100/17 which are great for blasting infantry out of foxholes and any hard cover.  If you can hit, of course.  Also, the artillery are often rated Confident Veteran, which makes them stick around for a long time.  

Don't leave home without them!  With their [usually] good morale and plenty of guns, they really help what is a pretty dangerous light armored company in Early or Mid War.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Things to fight over - Italian Objectives for Flames of War

I don't play FoW at the moment, but I still love the objectives I made for it, and they'll turn up as markers or HQ units in any game that I play in the future.  I have to say that the diorama aspect of FoW is very appealing, and it's great to see the objectives people make.  DON'T USE SIMPLE CARDS!  Make something cool for your company!  Rant over.  Here's some of mine:

  1.  Forward observation post on the left.  Old Glory figs, Peter Pig bicycle, foam, sand, kitty litter rocks, foam greenery.  Guard, observer and radioman, with wire trailing off the edge of the base.  Bicycle is to ride out when the wire's cut and inspect it!  From an actual photo.
  2. Knocked-out Semovente command vehicle.  Old Glory tank, and doctor, Peter Pig wounded, nun and old man in blackshirt [orderly].  The kneeling medic is a modified radioman, the doctor an artillery officer with a clipboard.  The nun is in correct historical garb for an order of Italian nuns in North Africa who did in fact man hospitals!  She's hurrying to the scene.  The tank was damaged using an X-Acto blade, the cuts reflect the brittle nature of Italian armor metal which was lower grade and not as pliable, so it shattered sometimes on impact.
  3. Battlefront Italian M13/41 objective.  Burned out tank, nothing impressive done to it, I should probably spruce it up a bit.  Also sculpted from a photo that I saw on line somewhere, I am pretty certain.

 Side view of all three.  The trench looks a bit jumbled in this pic, it's easier to see in real life.

Final side view.  The brewed-up Semovente has an exit hole from the round that went thru it, knocking out the lower plate on the far side.  I need a camera that takes close-up shots I think!

Hope you enjoyed these shots.  It is a lot of fun to tell a little story with your objectives, and put some drama in them.  Google images has tons of great pics, avail yourself of that resources for inspiration!