Today we have an AAR on how Martin got on with the Italians at Beachhead 2019
After my previous article on how I went about collecting mid war Italians (A Hat full of Feathers) I thought it would be a good follow up to talk about how they play on the table and what better way than at an event. So I signed up for Beachhead 2019 a one day three game mid war open event held at the Bournemouth International Center right on the seafront so plenty of opportunity to top up the tan! The FOW event formed part of the larger annual table top gaming convention, so lots to distract me from the gaming (getting my excuses in early!).
Looking at my options I decided on the Rifle Company backed up with a mixed Tank Company as my Force for the day.
The Rifles are the most adaptable of the three builds having the ability to do a bit of everything making them tricky to play against. The Combat Engineers are great in City Fighting and for all out attacking whilst the Weapons Company are a more defensive minded option and would leave me sorely tested in the what I anticipated could turn out to be an arena dominated by heavy tanks and armoured cars.
Now my list is in no way a fine tuned competition list but would give me plenty of options for any scenario and hopefully make my opponents have to think about how to overcome my swiss army knife style force. My one bit of “tournamentyness” was to convert my 100mm artillery into captured 25pdr guns. This Command Card in an open event is pretty much a no brainer choice if taking an Italian artillery battery which would have to double as my medium AT platoon. The only other choice I had to make was what type of scouts/spearhead unit I wanted, 3x L6/40 with their FA3 or 4x AB41 armoured cars. In the end I went with the numbers.
Luckily there is nothing in my list worth shooting with a heavy AT asset so the list negates the mobile AT issues a bit but is more vulnerable to 2pdr armed Valentines and a large quantity of high armour is also a bit of an issue.
There are plenty of highly competitive lists this will struggle against, but it is a hard list to beat easily, simply because it has all the tools needed to be effective against any type of opposition if they don’t play well and it is a remarkably big force in terms of the numbers of platoons.
Strategically I would use my Rifle Company and Force Support as my main fighting formation and use the Tank Company as a mobile counter coming on from reserve when so required or just generally getting themselves in the way of enemy advances and picking off guns and infantry.
My overall expectations of the competitiveness of the force in this environment was modest; with the large number of small platoons the Italians have, I knew from a couple of previous games I wasn’t in a position to to avoid giving away victory points, even if I could be victorious.
Round 1 – Encounter vs Aiden’s Churchill Company
My first game was against Aiden. Aiden was playing with a British force comprising of both a Churchill formation; HQ (1 Mk III and 1 CS), Churchill platoon (3), Sherman Platoon (two Sherman and a Grant) and an Armoured Car formation (Two Daimler troops and a Humber troop) supported by a Hurricane Tank Buster flight. A tricky list to face and possibly for Aiden to play with.
Aiden had only played a few games and this was his first tournament so this was definitely going to be a fairly gentle paced game to allow him to work through the rules.
Aiden chose Attack and I Manoeuvre for the battle stances and we ended up with Encounter. Aiden elected to start with his two Churchill units one on each objective but far apart and unable to support one another – I used my pre-planned battle plan, with my armour held in reserve.
The game started with me pushing my larger infantry unit forward, supported by the Brixia Assault Mortar unit, toward the village in front of the objective on my left and the armoured cars and small infantry up toward the one on the right; the aim being to pin the Churchill platoons back on the objectives and leave my two Lancia units to pick them off before I had to worry about the aircraft and armoured cars arriving from reserve.
My artillery would provide a smokescreen for the advance in turn 2. This set the pattern for the game and I slowly whittled the Churchill platoons down; needing 6’s to hit slowed progress but by turn 4 there were only the HQ with two tanks and a lone tank on the other objective.
On turn 4 we both got reserves. Aiden brought on his Sherman platoon which, luckily, arrived on his right to help out the lone Churchill, killing an infantry stand.
I brought on the Semovente’s; dashing them along the road to support my assault troops occupying the buildings contesting the left objective.
My Brixia platoon continued to fire smoke, now at the Sherman platoon, to ensure I was as hard as possible to hit.
At this point I elected to launch an assault against the HQ formation after bailing out one tank with the Lancia; this would be a game winning move if it worked! My attack did no damage but the remaining Churchill now had to pass a motivation test to counter assault or all was lost. Sadly it did and I failed to counter assault back, thus the attack ended.
Turn 5 saw the Hurricanes arrive, homing in on my Lancia pinning the Sherman’s down. The Sherman’s manoeuvred round the village to attack my advancing armour. I elected not to to conduct AA defensive fire (preferring to keep firing in my turn) so the planes opened fire, scoring only the one hit, but the 4+ vehicle save was enough to prevent any damage. Meanwhile, the Sherman platoon killed a Semovente.
The HQ Churchill platoon now moved against my weakened small infantry unit forcing them to back away, but only reducing them to three teams. The Churchills then moved back as they couldn’t leave the objective undefended due to the AB41 platoon.
I had to use turn 5 to re position my Lancia platoons to threaten the Sherman’s next turn; the lone Churchill I reasoned was going to fail a last stand test eventually. I fired another load of smoke from the Brixia unit to cover the infantry tanks whilst my Semoventes engaged the Sherman, platoon killing the Grant and bailing a Sherman. The only downside was I hadn’t moved my infantry as I didn’t expect the Semovente unit to do so well and I was just out of range to assault the remaining two tanks sitting in the smoke cloud.
Turn 6 saw the lone Churchill finally rout, the Sherman remounted and the Humber unit arrived from reserve. The Hurricane flight failed to reappear which was good for me.
Shooting saw the Semovente unit lose another tank with the remaining two being bailed out. The Churchill HQ finished off the small infantry platoon but were still tied to the objective by the lurking AB41 platoon.
Without the aircraft having shown up to ruin my day, my turn 6 was brief with the Semovente unit remounting to add additional fire to the two Lancia units which was enough to kill the Sherman unit, in turn breaking the Churchill formation, and the game was over with me holding the now undefended objective with my infantry in the village.
A decisive win, 8-1.
Aiden had a tough list to play with and some post game discussion saw him swap around his starting troop, putting the Sherman and Churchill HQ platoons in to reserve in a later game.
This created some better opportunities for him; with only two platoons and two objectives to defend there was almost nothing he could do for the first three turns, allowing me to totally dictate how the game played out.
Round 2 – Breakthrough vs Jersey’s US Armoured Rifles
I was playing another BA member, Jersey James, with an American Armoured Rifle Company (Aiden was also borrowing Jersey’s Churchill company).
The scenario was Breakthrough with me defending on the desert table from round 1. I again put my armour into reserve and my 47mm AT platoon went in to ambush. James put the Sherman, 37mm AT guns and T28E platoons into reserve.
The game opened with the armoured rifles manoeuvring to assault my Brixia Mortar unit in the village in the centre of the table to create a route through to the objectives, but a failed follow me order left the HQ standing in the road in front of my units and no one else in assault range.
The other unit moved up to attack the other village where my small rifle platoon were deployed. A lot of half track shooting later and my casualties were a nice round ZERO teams thanks to being in bulletproof cover.
My Turn 1 was a pretty decisive one with the Brixia, AB41 and HMG units taking full advantage of the exposed US ARP leader. Even though most of the unit was in the buildings, the casualties were substantial thanks to 5+ FP of the Brixias and, most importantly for me, all of the medium based rifle teams were dead, so any assaulting with just bazooka teams would be less effective and make me much harder to breakthrough.
My artillery firing picked off their transport platoon. I popped my ambush in support of my small rifle platoon in the other village and proceeded to reduce the second ARP platoon to just over half strength. Catching them whilst still mounted really had an impact!
The Lancia units both manoeuvred ready for the arrival of the reserves.
In turn 2 the American infantry failed to unpin and was stuck in the buildings in the centre, the rest elected to move back to cover of the palm groves.
My turn 2 saw me finish off the ARP platoon in the village. I simply threw so many dice that their survival was always going to be unlikely, although the HQ platoon minus its half track did manage to get away. The 47mm guns dealt with the universal carriers.
This ushered in a rather weird quiet period in the game, I redeployed my units to better defend the objectives and James waited for his reserves to arrive with the inevitable Sherman attack.
Turn 3 – the Sherman reserves duly arrived, failing to hit anything with shooting and assaulted my infantry which broke off.
My reserves continued to arrive as well. This time I brought on the M14/41 units first and move them up to threaten the remaining ARP platoon, plus the T30’s and Priests still in their initial deployment zone. My Brixia platoon failed a last stand test having taken a casualty from the now gone ARP. The Lancia and artillery unit killed two Shermans, whilst the infantry moved back to contest the objective. The 47mm kill a T30.
James’s turn 4 repeated turn 3, with him failing to unpin the ARP platoon and then pretty much fail to hit anything with his shooting, with the same outcome in the assault step. I did manage one counter assault, but failed to do any damage, and I elected to break off instead of try again.
My platoon was down to only five teams at this point.
My turn 4 effectively ended the game in a hail of fire as I killed the Shermans, T30 and Priests as well as most of the remaining ARP platoon which had failed to dig in. This left just the two small reserve platoons coming on to now face my entire force!
To give James his due he didn’t give up and managed to pick off enough of my small units to end the game in a 6-3 victory to the italians. Despite losing seven platoons the American formation held out until the game ending point at turn 6 thanks to lots formation elements.
Round 3 – Breakthrough vs Adam’s Panzer Grenadiers
Round 3 saw me playing former BA member Adam Coxer, he of the grey Ferdinand (they do look rather good up close).
His list was an armoured panzer grenadier formation of HQ, 2 APG platoons, armoured mortars, 7.5cm gun platoon with armoured cars, Nebelwerfers, Fedinand and Marder as support.
The scenario was again Breakthrough but this time I was the attacker and we were playing on a European themed table. I put my Semovente and small rifle platoon into a reserve to come on to attack the objectives later.
I launched my assault around behind the wood and lake in a big right hook, coming through the orchard with my infantry, AB41’s and a M14/41 platoon supported by the Brixia unit to take on the smaller APG unit, 7.5cm gun platoon and armoured mortars.
Smoke from my Brixia unit really came to the fore again, concealing much of my assault and, after a couple of turns of bitter fighting, eventually the German resistance broke and all three units were lost whilst I lost half my infantry and a couple of M14/41 tanks in return.
This turned out to be a very tactical game due to the terrain being fairly dense, punctuated by some poor blitz roles by the Ferdinands, who only managed to kill a single Lancia all game; they just couldn’t deliver a decisive blow.
I managed to pin the Nebs in turn 2 with counter battery fire before they could do any damage and they stayed pinned until I killed one with my HMG unit and they promptly fled the battle. The dice gods were definitely on my side in this game with Adam having some poor rolls when it counted.
Eventually my reserves arrived and the remnants of the German infantry was forced into a last ditch assault against them which ended in their destruction along with the formation HQ and the German force broke.
A third win, this time 7-2.
Overall I had a really pleasant day out at a great event and to add to the general good feeling of the day my Itailan force did themselves proud with three wins against some challenging armies, finishing up with the highest overall score.
I had some luck at times with the dice falling in my favour and my opponents failures to capitalise on mistakes I made but overall the list proved very solid and forgiving to play with which enabled me to make the most of the opportunities I got in each game.