A Hat Full of Feathers

How I went about starting collecting a mid war Italian Force

I always wanted to collect an Italian army ever since I first played against them back at an event in 2012. I’d never forgotten the look of the models, wearing their feather decorated hats and just how distinctive they looked but, something always got in the way.

Now the Italian army traditionally has has a rather unfortunate reputation thanks to some ill informed beliefs that grew up during the war but more recently perception of them has seen a better appreciation of these tough but often outdated equipped troops.
In Flames of War the basic Italians have some tough infantry, some decent artillery options but rather poor tanks compared to the other nations.  So with the release of the Avanti book, and release of lots of new plastic models, I decided the time was right to take the plunge.

Being undecided about how I wanted to develop an Italian Force I rather foolishly decided what I wanted was the ability to field all three core formations; Tanks, Rifles and Bersaglieri Weapons Companies so I could see what I liked best. I also took a shine to the idea of the Assault Engineer Company which could be used in a City Fight game or, in my case, to storm a desert fort. So that’s three lots of infantry and a formation of tanks to build and paint. This would have got out of hand fairly quickly if I didn’t plan carefully!

My hobby time is pretty limited so I started to look carefully at how could I go about being able to field a Force based on all these Formations without painting a Soviet level number of infantry teams or never get them all finished before I moved on to the next project.

Looking in more detail at the contents lists of the various Italian units I soon realised that there was a way forward where I could basically just collect and paint 29 teams and would be able to field all three infantry companies. That’s just like doing a single full sized Strelkovy company and looked a reasonably manageable project to get finished in a two to three months.

On parade in the Ukraine –  loving the jogging step really makes the feathers fly!

So what did I do?

I started out with the Assault Engineer platoon (IT765) pack as this provides five infantry teams (four medium and one small base) which I also need for the basic rifle platoons and the models, if based carefully, provide the necessary two medium base MG teams needed for the Weapons Platoon.
All I needed now was an HMG and a 20mm AT rifle team to complete the black box platoons for all three different formations. Luckily the 20mm AT team is available individually from the Battlefront special order catalogue (ISO 112). The HMG’s come in the same pack (IT764) as the brixia assault mortar and 81mm mortar platoons; more useful formation platoons for both the other companies.

What else did I need to make the formations legal? ah yes, a HQ platoon! Again these are available from the special order catalogue (ISO 110), or you can purchase a rifle platoon pack (this enables the enlargement of a rifle platoon to the nine team option), and I would need a 47mm AT guns unit for the Weapons Company, handily its in all 3 Formations so well worth getting early on in your collecting.

So, despite only buying four platoon packs and four special order items (I ordered three ATR’s for completeness), I now had enough teams to field all three infantry company options and importantly not too much stuff to assemble and paint.

Option 1 – Assault Engineer Company (41pts)
Rifle HQ
Assault Engineer Platoon (9 teams)
Assault Engineer Platoon (9 teams)
81mm Mortar Platoon (3 teams)
47mm AT Platoon (4 teams)

As they came plus the special order commanders – using 27 out of my 29 teams

Option 2 Rifle Company (32 pts)
Rifle HQ
Rifle Platoon (5 teams)
Rifle Platoon (5 teams)
47mm AT Platoon  (4 teams)
HMG Platoon (3 teams)
Assault Mortar Platoon (3 teams)
81mm Mortar Platoon (3 teams)

Only leaving out Assault Engineer specialist teams – using 25 out of 29

Option 3 – Bersaglieri Weapons Company (21pts)
Bersaglieri Weapons Company HQ
Weapons Platoon (3 MG teams)
Weapons Platoon (3 MG teams)
Weapons Platoon (3 MG teams)
47mm AT Platoon (4 teams)

Finally using the special order anti tank teams – using 21 out of 29 teams

To complete my Formation collections, I needed a Tank company and the obvious option here was to get the Lorenzos Rams starter set which is great value for money. It provides a handy 100 mm artillery unit as Force Support, which can act as a make shift anti-tank defence, and eight tank sprues. I elected to build these as four M14/41 tanks and four 75mm Semovente; these would be enough to form a small Formation or, more likely, initially be used as two Formation Support units for one of my infantry companies. My thinking in the build phase being that if, let’s be honest, when I added more tanks they could all be M14/41 builds giving me a full company, with three platoons of four tanks, and looking carefully at the sprues I could half complete these (turret) in advance from the spare parts potentially saving me some time later on.

Tank Company (24pts or 25pts used as Formation Support)
HQ M14/41
M14/41 Platoon (3 tanks)
Semovente Platoon (4 tanks)

Like the real Italian army I was lacking heavy anti-tank capability to deal with the British infantry tanks and here the Italians have a great looking option for the mid war era, the 90mm Anti-tank gun on Lancia. These would become my first purchase after I had painted all the companies. Collecting a new force would require me to have some discipline or else I’ve found things sit in a cupboard for years awaiting assembly or my unit options are totally unbalanced as I “forget” to paint some infantry – tanks are so much more fun to do!

Force Support (24 pts)
100mm Howitzer Battery (4 guns)
90mm on Lancia Battery (1 gun)
90mm on Lancia Battery (1 gun)

I now have a Force plan for 90 points plus, to start out with for my new nation and importantly I had loads of options for how to use them in games. I can be all aggresive with the Assult Engineers, go all defensive with the Weapons Company or a bit of both with the Rifle Company  and secondly something I really like about how I was able to collect the Italians I had very few models that would not see use pretty much all the time.

Well hopefully this has been interesting and shown that how with just a moderate amount of planning and thought you can maximise the variety of what you can do with your puchases.

2 thoughts on “A Hat Full of Feathers

  1. Great Article on an “economy of painting force” set of formations.
    Realisticly our challenge, never enough painting timecto getvthe army done

  2. Great Article on an “economy of painting force” set of formations.
    Realisticly our challenge, never enough painting timecto get the army done

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